Have you seen this video? http://www.upworthy.com/loneliness-illustrated-so-beautifully-you-will-need-to-tell-someone
. The gist of it is this: we are expecting more of technology and less of each other and, because of this, we are more lonely than ever.
This video is hugely popular right now. I think it’s bunk. And I’ll tell you why: The connections between the facts shared in the video and the claims made are, at best, loose, and at worst, non-existent.
Let’s dig in… Man is social, but is forced to be individual
The video starts by explaining that man is a social creature and feelings of loneliness can drive us mad. We can establish up to 150 intimate connections at any given time. However, modern western society “sanctions individuality,” which is measured by a successful career, wealth, self-image and consumerism.
I disagree. I think modern western society sanctions family and followers. That’s what mass advertising is all about – do this, buy that, be this, look like that – and then you’ll be happy. And we do. We buy the cars, the make-up, the trips, the sweaters, the toys, the houses, the locks, the computers, the beer, the tickets, etc. And we have the little family with the house and the yard near the good school and we drive the SUV to Walt Disney World so that we can be like the thousands upon thousands of other people.
I would argue that the lack of individuality out there is staggering. Individuality causes loneliness
The video states that this drive to be individual, ergo successful, causes many people to lose their social and family connections. And then the video takes the first of several big leaps, and assumes that the social fabric of the western world is weakening and, thus, loneliness is the most common ailment in the world.
Um, no it isn’t. Maybe loneliness is the second most common? Nope. Third? Nope. I couldn’t find one list that easily matched to another list, but I can confidently say the commonly cited ailments included: diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, depression, eczema, dandruff, tooth decay, indigestion, sore throat and the common cold. And, furthermore, I can say, that none of the many, many lists included loneliness.
And the video never explains exactly why individuality creates loneliness. Loosely defined, we could say that individuality is the quality of one person that stands apart from another person. Loneliness is sadness because one has no friends or company. The two words are not interchangeable and one does not cause they other. Social media = decline of society
The next big jump is something we hear all the time: the rise of social media is in direct correlation to the decline of personal connections. The video states that we use social media to manage and create connections, because we’re too busy to do so in real life.
That might lead you to believe that you have to choose between social media and real life, and I don’t think that’s true. I think there are many, many people out there capable of having meaningful relationships with their family and friends and who are able to use social media to help maintain connections both near and far, with close friends, colleagues, family members and acquaintances alike. Fear of intimacy
At the conclusion, the video makes its last giant leap and, as conclusions should never, never do, introduces a poorly defined, non-supported new concept: we are afraid of intimacy. The idea is that we spend endless hours creating an edited, desirable image of ourselves online because we’re afraid of intimacy. The worry is that we are creating false connections, which means we will never know how to be alone, and that means we will always be lonely.
What? Where did that come from? Didn’t the video start by saying that it is in our very nature to happily exist within 150 intimate connections? I thought individuality was supposed to create loneliness. It sounds like loneliness is created from false connections, which are caused by a fear of intimacy. Where did this conclusion come from? My conclusion
This video is bunk. And in keeping with the video’s new conclusion structure, I’ll introduce a new idea and not defend it: That social media was used to promote this video is ironic. The end.
There’s a lot of complaining about Facebook. And for good reason – there’s a lot of shit on FB. Anyone who knows me, knows that quite a bit of FB activity gets on my nerves. For example:
- The stupid challenges where you have to name a band without the letter E or a country with the letter Z. I especially hate the teaser: “Bet you can’t do it!” This is retarded people. It makes you sound like you’ve been held back in grade one for life. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.
- The cloying “re-post this if you love your dad/mom/brother/fish/best friend/ketchup.” Similarly, the lame “who will be brave enough to repost this” post about cancer, animal cruelty or third-world issues. Fuck off. I love my dad but I don’t have to prove it by posting someone else’s words about what daddy daughter love is. Grow a pair and stop following the crowd, sheep.
- The cryptic, desperate, dramatic status updates, like, “wow – that wasn’t as bad as I thought” or “I’m nervous about my big day.” If you have something to say, say it. FB is not about being mysterious, loser. In fact, I would argue it is the exact opposite of being mysterious. And if someone feels sorry enough for you to comment: “Okay, I’ll bite – what wasn’t so bad?” You answer – you don’t leave them hanging, fucker.
But I actually really like FB. I think it provides value to our day-to-day lives and that value is joy and information. Sure you have to weed through some filler, but there are gems to be found.
For example, this morning someone posted this video: http://thechive.com/2012/02/01/guy-places-fast-food-order-in-a-manner-that-should-get-him-laid-video/
and even though I have a cold and feel like shit, I watched the video with a growing smile and then got out of bed a littler happier. Thanks FB for elevating my mood!
Or, for example, there are some really interesting FB pages, like: https://www.facebook.com/IFeakingLoveScience
, a page dedicated to the lighter side of science.
Or really smart people sharing smart ideas, like my friend John F.H., a philosophy guru who uses his FB page to engage in philosophical dialogue.
Or my friend Marc W., who uses his page to post news stories from around the world in an effort to bring the non-Fox News version to light.
Or my friend Craig H., who uses FB to entertain folks. For example, he found a piece of bread in the fridge at his office, and posted a photo of it (yes -- the photo above!) with the caption: “Really?” And then the following conversation happened:
- Tyler: No name on it = open season. Where is your office? I’m coming to eat that bread right now.
- Craig: It’s damn hard to resist that one piece of plain, dry bread. Hard to believe it’s been there three days. Thank goodness it’s Zip-locked!
- Tyler: That piece of bread is blowing my mind.
- Craig: I’m going as that piece of bread for Halloween.
- Tyler: I’m going to sheepishly show up at that piece of bread’s yoga studio and ask it out on a date. I need that bread!
- Craig: Message me your mailing address, and if that bread is still there tomorrow I will steal it and mail it to you.
- Tyler: Do you have to wait until tomorrow?
- Craig: If it’s meant to be, the bread will wait for you. I’m gonna steal the fuck outta this bread.
- Tyler: It’s the yeast you can do.
- Craig: If I could like that twice, I would. Also, I don’t have your address yet. Please be better at technology.
- Tyler: If I had that bread I wouldn’t need technology.
And then the next day:
- Tyler: Is it still there?
- Craig: I’m popping that bad boy into an envelope. (And there was a picture of the bread in an envelope with the bread showing through the envelope’s window).
- Tyler: That bread would look good in anything! Mail it! I’ll reimburse you for the toastage.
- Craig: Toastage! I loaf it! God speed doughy angel. (And then a picture of the envelope going into a mailbox).
- Tyler: I’m waiting with baited breadth!
(Now, I would have been tickled enough at the idea of mailing the bread, never mind actually mailing it. But he did. He actually mailed it.)
And then weeks later:
- Craig: Friends, I feel it's time to address the elephant in the room. After many anxious weeks, it seems our worst fears have been realized – that bread never made it to California. I didn’t include a return address, fearing I may somehow get arrested for sending a slice of bread through the mail in this post 9-11 era. I have many questions, as I'm sure you do. Questions like "where the fuck is that slice of bread?" The sad truth is we'll probably never know. That slice of bread is the DB Cooper of bakery items now; a hero whose story may never conclude, and as such, a hero whose adventure never ends. In a way this ongoing mystery is the real Ziploc bag – keeping the magic and wonder of that slice of bread fresh and flavourful forever.
And while I have no idea who DB Cooper is, this story is just fucking funny.
So to those of you who complain that FB is lame, boring or a time-suck, remember this: I am FB. You are FB. We are the content. It is what we make it, so if it sucks, make it better. And if you really hate it, if you cannot stomach how pedantic it can be, don’t use it.
Craig Huffipants Huffingster Huff
Can't be a smart-ass, potty-mouth, know-it-all without hitting the books.
I can pinpoint events in my childhood that link directly to who I am today. Can you? Just pick a few essential things about you – your core attributes or vices or habits. And then think back to when you were a kid – is this something you have always been/done/thought?
For example, babies. People ask me how I know that I don’t want babies – how can I be so sure – and my answer is that I just never did. Even as a kid. For Christmas one year, I was given one of those baby dolls that actually pees. You pour water into the doll’s mouth with a little pretend baby bottle, effectively forcing water down its plastic throat, and the water comes out the baby’s vagina (which was just one tiny hole – very confusing). It’s meant to help you understand how to take care of a real baby one day. (Some seriously early conditioning, no?) I did it a couple of times, because, you know, why not? When I squeezed the baby’s belly, the water came out faster. That was cool. But, of course, all the water ended up on the floor. I recall being super disappointed – I have to clean up after this thing? Deal breaker. Baby doll found some devalued real estate in the closet (where my Cabbage Patch dolls would later reside).
Had I known it then, I would have marked that as the first day I knew I didn’t want to have children and was totally okay with that decision.
Now, you might be thinking that everything you did as a kid will make-up who you are today. Maybe not! When I was about eight or so, I was in a neighbourhood skipping rope competition. It was down to me and another girl. I was skipping so hard I gave myself a nosebleed. You’d think, with that level of fight in me, that I would be very competitive today. I’m not.
But I am a smart-ass, and that started a loooooong time ago. At about nine-years-old, I was doing my homework with a classmate and she asked me my favourite way to spell favourite and I answered: “The right way.” What a jackass.
And I am a know-it-all. In grade four(ish), I told a classmate she was pronouncing her name incorrectly. Ya. I know, right? Her name was Shana (likely still is) and she pronounced it just fine. But I had never heard that name before, saw the spelling, and naturally assumed Shana (Shay-nah) would sound more like Shannon (Sha-na), and I told her so. I even wrote our names out on a piece of paper to illustrate my point, and then summed my argument by slowly sounding out the correct way to pronounce her name for her. Later that same year, I asked to borrow a pencil and she turned me down. Can’t blame her.
And, finally, I have always been a potty mouth. At about age six, I let the subway doors close on my arm because I wanted to know if it would hurt. It didn’t, because the edges of the doors are made of rubber, but I was so scared that it would hurt that I let out a big FUUUUUUCK when the doors softly closed on my arm. My mother was appropriately mortified.
Anyhoo, it’s a totally narcissistic exercise. Try it!
Maybe you don’t think you are often wrong. Maybe right now you are saying to yourself that this article does not apply to you. That would be just one of the many, many, many, many times you actually have been wrong. But it’s okay. I’m wrong all the time, too.
Our very idea of what’s right is shaky. It’s often based on commonly, locally held legal and moral values. Then we layer on our personal beliefs and experiences, which are extremely localized and, whether we are aware of it or not, based on the personal beliefs and experiences of our parents, friends and community (which means we are oddly distanced from what we hold so rigidly). Then we discount other perspectives in place of our own, because we feel our perspective is complete and therefore right, and, voila, we’re often wrong.
How to be wrong less often in three easy steps.
ONE. Before assuming we are right, we need to question our legal and moral values to make sure they make sense. Why? Because they often don’t. It used to be illegal for women to wear pants in Arizona, for men and women to flirt on the streets of Arkansas or to tie your giraffe to a telephone pole (thanks Georgia for being the weirdest one!).
Question everything! Just because your grandmother told you something, doesn’t make it true. Question grandma. Every time you think that something is true, ask why you know it to be true. Your daddy, best friend, science teacher told you so? Verify the answer. Be sure. If it turns out that your argument has merit, carry forth in a gentle manner. If it turns out that most of the answers to your questions are “I dunno,” maybe rethink your stance.
Minus points for these arguments: Because I said so / that’s the way it has always been / that’s what my parents did / and any argument that starts with biblical references as fact.
TWO. Before assuming we are right, we need to take our personal beliefs and experiences and shove ‘em. Why? Because they don’t apply to anyone else. They are our chosen beliefs. Cuddle them, love them, make coffee mitts with cutesy quotes about them. But remember they are yours, and they do not apply to others. For example, you can believe that having a rabbit’s foot is good luck, but that doesn’t make it true. Even if after killing the rabbit, cutting off its foot, letting it bleed, cleaning it and then tying some ribbon around it, you immediately win the lottery, it doesn’t mean the rabbit’s foot is lucky. Plus, you’re a jerk for killing bunnies.
Your personal experiences are also nixed. Just because last week you fixed a leaky faucet with Duct Tape, doesn’t mean that is the best way to fix a leaky faucet. Your experience comes with a wealth of value, but the same can be said for most other people. Just because you have always done something one way to great success, doesn’t mean there isn’t another, equally successful way of doing something.
Say it after me: My way or the highway are just two of the many, many available options.
Pro tip: Believing stuff doesn’t make it real.
Side story: Duct Tape is pretty awesome.
Admission: I don’t really know the process by which people acquire a rabbit’s foot.
THREE. Before assuming we are right, we need to take into consideration the other person’s perspective. Why? Because they are as complete a human being as you are. Like you, they have values and laws and beliefs and feelings and knowledge and experience. Like you, they also think they are right. So just hear ‘em out. Just listen. If it turns out they are bat shit crazy, then so be it. You were right this time. Kick back with Cool and the Gang and celebrate good times, come on, let’s celebrate, it’s alright.
Extra points for these statements: I don’t know / tell me more about that / I never thought of it that way / you’re right.
Side story: This article was meant to be about expectations, but turned into a rant about how irritating know-it-all’s are and then, during a lengthy, self-editing process that always feels like I’m being emotionally mauled by a lion, turned into an article about being wrong. Then I threw some jokes in, and voila, now it’s this. Writing is magic!
Being right is cool. But not when being right is more important than being interesting or happy or intelligent. At the end of the day, we should aim to be accurate, but if our aim is off, that’s okay.
Being wrong is not the end of the world. What’s really valuable is being open to what being wrong means. It sometimes allows you to take a new path, try a new dish, explore a new idea, grow an old idea, see your future differently. Being wrong can be an opportunity.
As Kathryn Schultz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error states, it is “ultimately wrongness, not rightness that can teach us who we are.”
She’s pretty cool. Check out her Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html
I threw a housewarming bash recently, and was given a marvelous gift: Welsh cakes, jam, tea and a trashy magazine. In other words, my friend’s trusty hangover cure. The trashy magazine was a Cosmopolitan. I haven’t read Cosmo in years, mostly because it simply isn’t geared to me – it’s aimed at women between 18 and 24 – and is filled with things I arrogantly think I already know (10 ways to be sexy in the bedroom) or things I don’t care about (how to eat, drink and twerk my ass off this holiday season).
However, I’ve noticed Cosmo’s “fun, fearless female” campaign over the years, so I expected to look at images and read articles about how to be a badass woman (and, yes, tips on how to have my best orgasm yet, how to have the biggest orgasm of my life and how to have my longest orgasm ever). And so, I flipped through the glossy pages expecting to be entertained and titillated – what new secrets would Cosmo have for me? Mixed message
Turns out, Cosmo’s fun, fearless female campaign is a big fucking lie. On page 51 of the December 2013 issue, under the title “Fun, Fearless Confessions,” I learned the following fun fearless things:
- “For the first time ever, I slept with two guys in a single weekend. Now I have a yeast infection.”
- “I wet the bed at my booty call’s apartment and had to pretend I’d spilled a drink on his sheets.”
Um, no, Cosmo. Not fun. Not fearless. Kinda gross. And worse than that is the mixed message of the confessions themselves. I think Cosmo is making two points here, and very purposely:
- Women can have sex with multiple men and be the one who makes the booty call.
- But if they do, they’ll get a yeast infection and pee the bed.
It’s a sneaky message, isn’t it? Think about it. Cosmo must get thousands of women sending in their confessions. And then they choose certain submissions and edit them. Cosmo chose these particular confessions and then further chose not to edit the negative reaction to the proposed positive action. Bit of a mixed message, no?Bad advice
And then, on page 159 in the “Love Advice” section, I read this Q&A:
- Q: “My guy sometimes goes out to bars with a girl he works with. I trust him but not her. She’s extremely flirty toward him. Should I be worried?”
- A: “No matter how trustworthy your boyfriend is, if you mix alcohol and a flirty coworker enough times, something bad will eventually happen. Don’t demand that he stop hanging out with the coworker. That’ll make him defensive and probably start a fight. Instead, say: She’s into you, and I obviously understand why. I trust you, but nobody’s perfect and knowing you are out drinking with her makes me uneasy.”
What the fuck? Really, Cosmo? This answer is ridiculously damaging. This answer says women are whores not to be trusted and boys will be boys.
This is fun? This is fearless? Or, is this the same-old idea that we have to treat women like the competition because the only thing worth our time is men – getting them, keeping them, and guarding them from the perils of other sneaky, cheating, moral-free women who will steal what’s ours in a heartbeat?Have sex (whore)
On a superficial level, Cosmo seems to be encouraging women to have sex with as many men as they want as often as they want – their articles straight-up state that this is fun, fearless activity. This is considered to be the epitome of female empowerment.
But on a deeper level, Cosmo seems to be stating that we need to be wary of the very women they are encouraging – those other women who may view sex as something they are free to do with whomever they want, for example your boyfriend. So, you can be a fun, fearless woman having sex all the time but you are still a whore to be feared. And men are just helpless victims to the tawdry lure of our over-heated vaginas and we will be immediately punished with yeast infections for our slutty behaviour.
Jesus Cosmo – what decade is your calendar showing? Your vagina does not equal empowerment
My idea of a fun, fearless woman is someone who knows who she is and what she wants, or knows that she’s on the journey to find out. She is brave enough to make mistakes, learn from them, laugh at them, and ask for help. She embraces opportunity. She has integrity. She is confident, wise, empathetic and trusting. She’s not afraid to speak her mind (even if it might start a fight). She knows that women are not the competition, not to be feared, not to be belittled. She knows that relationships are a healthy part of life and that sex is a healthy part of life, and she knows that her vagina does not equal empowerment – not by withholding it and not by sharing it. Dear Cosmo:
Your magazine overtly teaches women that they have to have sex to be fun and fearless and covertly calls them whores for it. You are an idiot. You are detrimental to the very idea of female empowerment. Your magazine should be placed in the porn section, next to Hustler and Asian Fever, with black Xs over your offensive articles and ideas.
Fuck off, Cosmo, fuck right off.
December 2013 Cosmopolitan Magazine
Oh, how we love to fall in love. The thrill of meeting someone who makes the hairs on your arms stand up, the temperature in your bedroom rise, your perspective on the world surge, your shitty days less shitty. It’s dreamy falling in love. It’s dangerous and exciting. It’s fraught with passion and compassion.
Our partners become our day-to-day sounding board. We share everything with them. Our lust, love, passion, joy, comfort, trust, amiability. Our partners are our best friends. Our keepers of secrets and fears and failures and triumphs. When we have something insignificant to share, perhaps an interesting article recently read or a phone call with a friend to recite, we turn to our partners, not because it is important to share the information, but because they are there, and because we end up telling them everything.
That’s why we are so destroyed when it ends. That’s why it hurts so much. It’s not just that a breakup means that person is walking out the door never to return, which is difficult enough, but that they are taking our life plans with them. What now of the trip to Iceland? What now of the cafés across Canada book? What now of the cottage? The house? The kids?
And who will we share the particulars of a life that was so entwined it no longer needed explanation. Who will understand our inside jokes, our history, our struggles to become who we are? Now what?
And now, as all this hurt barrels down on us, hunching our shoulders, creating insecurity where once security lived, who is to blame? It’s agonizing enough that our partner simply doesn’t love us anymore, but what if they also cheated or lied? What if they are choosing something or someone else instead of us?
Oh, how quick we are to turn love into vengeance. Oh, how we love to cover our pain with our hatred. When we feel scared, we turn it into anger. When we feel hurt, we turn it into anger. When we feel shame, we turn it into anger.
But I say let’s not. Even if it is in our very nature to slash and burn that motherfucker who hurt us, we shouldn’t. Even if it is 100% their fault that the relationship ended, and all we really want to do is shame them on Facebook or in a scathing email to all of our mutual friends, we shouldn’t. Even if they lied from the start, and we want to make them feel as small and hurt and scared as we feel, we shouldn’t. Let’s deal with it
Let’s focus on what’s actually going on – we’re scared, hurt and ashamed. Let’s deal with that.
We should turn our energy inwards rather than outwards. We should spend the energy on learning the role we played so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. On evaluating who we are and what we want. On grieving what’s lost. On healing. On gaining the strength to take on the future.
Yes, go out with your friends and lambast that fucker who hurt you. Yes, stay in and cry because it hurts so fucking much. Yes, feel miserable and wear jogging pants everywhere for an inappropriate amount of time. Yes, worry that you’ll never find love again. Yes, go out and be a hot mess telling everyone that you are ready for someone new with a chilling look of desperation and bitterness bleeding from your eyes. I’m not asking that you handle this perfectly. I’m not asking that you pretend it doesn’t kill you every second of every day. Leave your ex out of it
I’m asking that you leave whoever left you out of it. Don’t waste a minute on them. Hurting them doesn’t erase your pain. It just hogs up tons of time that could be better spent helping yourself.
Breaking up brings out the worst in us. We make all the wrong moves. Every horrid thing we do to our ex to make us feel better in the moment, makes us feel worse in the end. Every late-night phone call made out of sorrow or anger to make us feel better in the moment, makes us feel worse in the end.
But, Shannon, he cheated – he deserves what he gets! But, Shannon, she left me for a job in another province – she shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that! But, Shannon, he just doesn’t love me – he needs to know how much that hurts me.
Sure. That sucks. But cheaty-pants, careerist, non-lover of you isn’t here anymore. Only you have to look yourself in the mirror everyday. What do you want to see?
Image credit (and not a terrible article associated to the image): http://mylifesepicmindset.blogspot.ca/2011/09/how-to-break-up-long-term-relationship.html
TED Talks asked a great question: What's the place that made you feel most connected to history? For me, it was the Lyceum in Athens in 2004.
The Lyceum was a philosophy school founded by Aristotle, a student of Plato, that survived through the Hellenic period, until 83 BC. It was a gymnasium, used to train military and to assemble the people, surrounded by a grove of trees. It was a place of discussion, debate and deep thinking. Scholars that we still quote today graced its paths, taught its courses, moulded Athenians' minds: Socrates, Isocrates, Protagoras, Rhapsodes. It was the place to be in the 5th century BC. And (insert math here) years later, I was walking those same paths in my flip flops.
It wasn't the ruins that impressed me, though they were impressive, but rather the park area that surrounded the ruins of the Lyceum. With it's rocks and trees and sense of ghostly knowledge, I felt like maybe some of that history could seep through my feet into my brain and implant a philosophical plateau from which I could launch and grow.
I was walking where Aristotle walked. I sat on a rock where Plato surely sat. It seemed to me that I could close my eyes and be there, that I had always been there, that I had come from there, and it hit me: our shared intellect is akin to Bob Barner's children's anatomy song (the foot bone's connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected to the hip bone, etc.) in that our current knowledge and understanding is directly connected to our previous knowledge and understanding. A simple fact, I know, but I felt it walking through the Lyceum grounds, and it felt as real as the breeze on my skin and the grass under my feet.
Henry Ward Beecher, clergyman, adulterer, social reformer and slavery abolisher said: "The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next." Right on, Henry, right on.
When wanting to impress folks, I say start with a Billy Joel quote: “Don’t go changing to try to please me, you never have to work that hard.” While it’s a lovely sentiment, Billy is full of shit. Staying the same in a world that is constantly transitioning would be much harder than changing with it. And how awful to think the same, feel the same and want the same things today that you did ten years ago or ten years from now.
As Confucius said: “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”
Since I fall somewhere in the middle, I guess I will have to keeping changing. And change I do.
I change outfits, my mind, cities, apartments. I moved recently, from one Vancouver inner-city hood to another Vancouver inner-city hood. When I told one friend in particular she asked me why, and so I listed all the good reasons I had for moving, which included more space, better hood, cat-friendly building, but did not include a short list of what was wrong with my old place. And so she asked again why would I move if there was nothing wrong with my place. That's a pretty common reaction to change, isn't it, and it got me wondering – why are we so afraid of change? The fear of the unknown.
Our fear of not knowing what’s around the proverbial corner has led many to never turn that corner. We doubt ourselves. What if we try this and fail – what then? Our imaginations dream up a hundred terrible things that could happen if we apply for that job, make that move, try that new hobby. (What if we dreamt up wonderful things instead?) We agonize over decisions.
Is this the right choice? Is this the right time to make this choice? What if we’re wrong? Then what? And we apply this to so many levels of change – from changing our hair dresser (it grows back, people!) to changing our university majors to changing our jobs. How can we be sure? (We can’t.) We act like change itself is unchanging.
If we move, we will have to stay there forever and what if we don’t like it? (Move back. Move somewhere else.) If we try a new restaurant, and we don’t like it, we will have wasted a meal. If we try something new, it doesn't mean that we can't keep doing what we loved before. Settling?
We like to fear change, but what we should fear is remaining in situations that are harmful to us. We stay in bad relationships far too long. We stay in jobs that bore us to tears for fear that a new job would be, at best, the same. We keep terrible friends
because we’ve known them for so long. We make the same decisions over and over
because, even though we don’t like the outcome, we know the outcome, and knowing is better than not knowing. We settle.
We would rather be ruined than changed,
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.
— W. H. Auden Change is good
What if going through both big and small changes made you more flexible, and with each new stretch, you became more flexible and therefore more adept at change? And what if change was impermanent, and not the lifelong choice we sometimes make it out to be? What of change made you smarter by making you look at things in a new way, from a different perspective? What if change opened your mind and showed you that your life could be better, easier, more interesting?
What if change were good and not a horrible unknown evil hell-bent on making your life worse? What would Steve Jobs do?
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” ― Steve Jobs
Well, I certainly culled my quotes online, but have amassed a number of jotted-down notes without jotted-down references. This will have to suffice: Thanks Internet.
Maybe you are someone who wears giraffe masks? Oh, wait. That's me.
That is a difficult question to answer. When my friend Shayn asked me, I was stumped. I didn’t even know where to begin. Who am I? Am I the sum of my present state? My past? My ideologies, my dogmas? Am I a product of how I was raised and by whom? Am I what I do for a living? Am I my hobbies? Do my friends help define me?
Let’s throw words at this, I said: I am funny, smart, curious, nervous, excited, philosophical, protective, warm, open-minded. I am a friend to a handful of people I admire. An acquaintance to many. I am a flawed daughter of flawed parents, a protective sister of a protective brother. An unknown to many. I am sheltered. I am careful and carefree.
But those words don’t add up to a whole person. I began to bucket.
What do I believe?
I believe that most of us have the capacity to be good. I believe in nature and nurture. I believe in evolution. I believe that religion is a man-made system designed so that tens of men could control thousands of men, and it’s gone terribly awry, but that some biblical principles have great value. For example, I believe we should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Imagine how the world would be if we all lived by these words.) I believe that many people deserve a second chance. I believe in an eye for an eye, in some circumstances. I would believe in the death penalty as a severe but necessary punishment, if we had a better justice system, but we don’t, so I don’t.
What do I think?
I think we should stop striving to own/have more stuff and start striving to have/own more ideas. I think we should be better to our neighbours. I think those of us with a voice need to be the voice for those without. I think we need to think more, question more, and not accept rhetoric as dogma. I think if we threw our TVs out, we would have healthier, happier, better-educated, harmonious communities. I think our education system needs a complete overhaul. I think our political system needs a complete overhaul. I think our financial system needs a complete overhaul. I think we need to end all war – just put our guns down, take our hands out of the pockets of other countries and fix what’s broken in our own backyards.
What do I value?
Ingenuity. Tolerance. Independence. Interdependence. Moxie. Wherewithal.
Follow-through. Honesty. Understanding. Openness. Humour. Knowledge.
Originality. And whatever word describes letting people be who they are and
learning from them.
What are my fears?
I am terribly afraid of never amounting to anything. Of being forgotten. I fear that I am not good enough.
What are my goals?
I want to know more and be more and inspire others to know more and be more. I want to be content with what I have. To write for a living. To not worry about money. I want to travel. To develop deep relationships with a chosen few and have a myriad of fun, inspiring, smart people in my life. To be a healthy, wise-cracking old lady one day. I want to get over all my fears.
Gun to my head
This is all incomplete, of course. It’s a start. And it doesn’t really describe who I am in a clear fashion. Those of you who know me, will recognize me in what I’ve written but for those of you who don’t know me, this likely seems a collection of words that don’t add up to a real human being.
Gun to my head, I’d have to say I am a writer who questions everything and wants more than anything to fully experience life – my heart broken and healed, my mind blown and expanded, my words lost and found. I want to be able to look back and accept every decision I’ve made as part of the journey that led me to the rocking chair on the porch of the house that overlooks the field and mountains beyond. And I am someone who needs to leave this as an open-ended answer because I hope it changes as I change.
So, who are you?
Since Shayn asked me, I’ve been asking other people, and I have gotten two distinct reactions: intrigue and fear. Intrigue resulted in answers or at least attempts at answers. Fear resulted in silence and a quick topic change. What does this tell me? To keep asking this question. : )
As I sit in my warm, safe apartment and listen to the washing machine gyrate, sipping on a fresh cup of coffee, wondering if I should have eggs for breakfast, I am thankful. And not just today, but all days.
I am thankful I was born! I love my life, and my parents made it happen. I am thankful that my parents loved each other long enough to have my brother and I. I am thankful they parted ways and became the best single parents they knew how to be. To my mother – thank you for being strong and independent, and for making mistakes so that I could learn from them. Your journey, Mommasita, inspires me always. To my father – thank you for being protective and wary and teaching me how to be safe in the harrowing world of men (insert slight sarcasm here because when I was a teenager, I was NOT thankful for this). Your love of music, Popsie-doodle, is one of the best gifts you’ve given me. To my brother – thank you for being my big brother and my friend and my keeper of secrets. I will always have your back, Brother.
I am thankful for all that has come before me, for all the battles won so that I could go to school and get a job and vote and not be expected to marry and have babies. I am thankful for birth control (insert no sarcasm here – I am thankful for birth control EVERY DAY). I am thankful to all the women before me who battled for change so that generations after, women wouldn’t have to (make fun of burning bras all you want – it worked). I am thankful for the new campaign about teaching men not to rape women and not simply teaching women how to protect themselves. I am thankful that we’re getting closer to equal pay for equal work. I am thankful for the opportunity to give back by working with the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter – in the short period I have been volunteering my time, I have seen great strength, hope and intelligence from women who are marginalized and forgotten. We have more bras to burn, and I am thankful I get to battle for change like the women before me.
I am thankful I live in a country where basic comforts can be taken for granted. I am thankful for running water, heat and electricity, and the ease with which I have access to each. I am thankful for free health care, which includes both physical and mental aid. I am thankful I get to live in Vancouver, and thankful for the spirit of community I have found here. I have access to mountains and oceans whenever I want, and I am in awe of and humbled by their beauty and power – thanks to nature for keeping things in perspective.
I am thankful for the amazing people in my life that support me, respect me and appreciate me, and importantly, want only that in return. I am so thankful that I get to be my weird, quirky, sassy self and people like me for it (phewph!). I am thankful that they choose to have me in their lives. Special thanks to my best friends Monica, Jen, Sue, Sandy, Bryan, Shayn, Marc and Jason – thank you so much for putting up with me for the last however many years we’ve been friends and thank you for sharing your joy and grief with me. I love you all. To my new friends, especially Brian, Linda, Jane, Leora, Craig, Jeremiah, Jaime, Maggie, Andrea, Yarra, Trevor and Fiona – thank you for inviting me into your lives and joining mine. You are all good apples and I feel lucky to call you friends.
I am thankful I was born healthy and have remained so since. I owe my independence to my health. I can lift, carry, push, reach and drag. I can breath, walk, run, sit and get back up again. I don't even have allergies. I am very, very lucky to be in such good health. I never have to think about if I can do something, because I know I can. And I do not take this for granted. I eat well and I exercise regularly. So one more thank you to my parents: Mom, I don't love my knobby knees, and Dad, you could have kept your crooked teeth to yourself, but I forgive these minor flaws and thank you both for my terrific immune system and general awesome health.
Happy Thanksgiving, folks.
Me! I took this after a run in August 2013.