We Simply Know Nothing

I touch on depression frequently in my articles because the statistics of people living with depression are so high that it can be completely disheartening and discouraging to think about, and if there is even a fraction of my words that can inspire another to either seek help for themselves, or begin making the change to their perception that will allow the room for happiness, then I know it is my moral obligation to continue discussing these topics. In the mindset of the holiday season, I bring you an article that has nothing to do with that, because I, myself, am a hardened Scrooge—hard pressed to feel differently. Though I make attempts to set that aside and allow my loved ones to experience the maximum amount of holiday joy that is possible for them, I also would be lying if I gave the impression I have somehow been converted into a holiday loving, young woman. Sorry, guys.

It has been my firsthand experience, and also my observation, that part of finding personal enlightenment enough to overcome depression and other mental illnesses working to negatively impact our lives, is admitting that we have absolutely no understanding of anything. It is all out of our control, our knowledge is not knowledge and we are pieces of matter floating ignorantly through space. Here I am, a columnist penning wellness articles with advice and inspiration for change, and I, too, am ignorant in everything. Hell, the shirt I think is orange could actually be green and I would not know the difference, and yet we seem to think we have some kind of insight into how this life all works. We think we know what things are supposed to look like as we stumble and fall and pick ourselves back up, often times thinking we’ve done something bad, wrong or are somehow being punished in some way for our initial fall in the first place.

In reality, we don’t know anything. None of us do, and while some may take those words and find them to be filled with despair, or at least apathy, I urge you that they are not. In fact, the very idea is an inspiration in itself to shed one’s preconceived notions of what life is supposed to be like, and instead just enjoy and live. I used to say that there is a certain kind of freedom that comes with realizing that nothing matters, and I still believe that, though I would now try to word it much differently. This freedom comes from inside us—suddenly the idea of personal happiness becomes prominent and the struggle of trying to fulfill societal norms dissipates. I’ve written before about my belief that the universe is a balance; this idea best matches my perception of the world, but I must tell you that there is nothing concrete in that way of thinking either. I simply don’t know the truth, and neither do you. It is a nice thought to think that people get out of life what they put in, but the reality of the situation is that people sometimes also don’t get what they deserve, or get something they don’t deserve. Why can some people do absolutely everything right and still get shit on every step of the way?

In our society we like to blame them for it. We call it “taking personal responsibility,” and while some personal responsibility is good, it is not always the case that we’ve made a bad choice. A few articles back, I wrote about how we view the poor as irresponsible with their money, forgetting that to be irresponsible with money would require you to have money in the first place. This way of thinking, that every choice we make impacts our lives and we best fully understand the consequences of those choices, is based on the idea that our choices actually do impact our lives. What if they don’t? Take the person who steers clear of smoking their entire lives, and still ends up with lung cancer. How do we explain that unless to say that there is a certain level of randomness that we simply don’t understand yet? By saying that, we have to admit that we are not knowledgeable, and we simply do not have the answers. We simply do not understand cause and effect, nevertheless leave room to understand that cause and effect might not even exist to begin with on a grander scale. Of course there are some things we can know—if we do not eat, we will be hungry; if we do not drink, we will be thirsty, but those are miniscule in the weight of complex human life.

There is an astronomical amount of pressure put on people to make the “right” decisions, even more judgment placed upon them when something bad happens. They simply must have made the wrong choice, and now it is up to them to take personal responsibility. Our society makes us believe that we are bad if we make any choice that veers from the algorithm planned out for it, despite the fact that bad things will happen regardless; and how do we expect people not to internalize those feelings of “being bad” when they see it everywhere they go? We are always bad, even when we are good; and when we are good, it is not good enough. Politicians tell the impoverished to get off their lazy asses and fight in a war most of us believe was tragic to begin with, the wealthy look down on those who need government assistance to feed their families, religious authorities demonize us for being human and give strict regimen to be considered worthy enough to enter heaven, curriculum and testing officials punish kids who simply don’t learn the standard way, women who do not want to be married and have children somehow gain the attention of being unnatural; and with all of this, we wonder why so many internalize the pain that comes with being viewed as bad, being viewed as worthless or being viewed as responsible for something negative.

I know that I can’t change the world myself, and would never dream to think so highly of myself as worthy of that endeavor in the first place, but I do know that I can change myself and how I view the world around me, and hope that in changing myself and promoting peace and happiness, I can positively impact those in my life, and then their small changes might inspire someone they know, so on and so forth. This spread of ideas is really the only way to combat the negative stereotypes or powerful judgments our society deems acceptable to place on others. I do not believe in bombs or guns, we cannot change the world without first understanding change within ourselves, and the path to peace is not with violence and negativity, but with love, empathy and understanding that spreads like wildfire and snuffs out those who seek to destroy. I know that if I can inspire even one person, then I have made an impact; and sometimes that impact is all we can hope for. That is what change looks like.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.


Why We Devalue Others

Although I’ve written many Facebook posts and discussion board entries about political ideas that are ultimately anti-human, the disparaging comments towards others has recently been causing me to spiral into a bit of despair; and for the better, I’d say, because a little dose of sadness helps to reevaluate the things that actually make you happy. Short-lived, my sadness was, however, as my son ran out of the bathroom screaming “I did it!” with his pull-up around his ankles; such a smile can erase the worst of the “blue meanies.”

But with my heart heavy for the hatred that has been bred and continues to breed across the minds of many, I am reminded that devaluing others is directly related to devaluing yourself, and I find myself in more a state of pity rather than depression. I know that misery well, and could never wish that misery on another, but I also recognize that hatred comes from hating yourself and it’s hard to not think of that as a life lesson in value.

When you place value on others, it becomes a reflection of how you view yourself. If you have ever been in a happy relationship, romantic or platonic, you may have noticed that you also become happier as a person. Your good qualities become more prominent, praised and appreciated while your flaws don’t seem as all-encompassing. You may instinctively take better care of yourself, your mental health and your growth. The value that you placed in someone else subconsciously inspires the value you place in yourself.

Similarly, when you devalue others, your sense of well-being starts to crumble, you become more narrow minded and callous in your perceptions of others, and often times violate your own basic sense of humanity. It can be hard to see this, however, because being in a devalued state often leads to increases hormones such as adrenaline, which can give you a false sense of power and authority—meaning your perception becomes one of you being right and everyone else being wrong. This heightened state of self-righteousness only lasts as long as your increase of hormones does, which then means it becomes important to consistently find things that increase those hormones again. For example, keeping your ex as a friend on Facebook and consistently stalking them to fuel your adrenaline, which fuels your false sense of righteousness, which repeats a cycle of fake authority and justifications for devaluing another person.

But ultimately you are devaluing yourself. You may find yourself saying things like “I don’t deserve this, why did this person do this to me, I deserve better, etc” all which are phrases that originate from a state of feeling devalued yourself. On the other hand, if your sense of value is high, you are more likely to be able to have disagreements with others without disparaging them and devaluing them. The link between a person’s differing view doesn’t come a personal blow, because your sense of value isn’t already at rock bottom and being relied on the opinion of another. You must be in a devalued stated in order to devalue another. This is why it becomes so incredibly difficult to break down another’s spirit when you feel really good about yourself; and similarly, why it becomes so easy to disparage another when your value is low. It becomes equally hard to build yourself up when you feel low as well, and your worth begins to rely on the opinion of others around you rather than coming from within.

Reminding myself of this brings me a sense of peace in dealing with the hateful rhetoric that is coming out of the mouths of loved ones, and I find myself trying to work harder to protect myself from a disruption of my own personal peace without placing blame or combatting hatred with my own hatred. Finding peace truly comes from the ability to separate the idea that everyone who is not your friend is an enemy, and that your friends have an obligation to somehow fit into your expectations. It is equally as important for you to take care of yourself as it is for you to understand that the hateful bastard next door yelling about Muslims is really just tired of himself.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

We Are Morally Obligated To Help Others

The past several months of my life have been exhausted in change; not just change within myself as a person, but real life change, such as, becoming a mother by proxy (i.e. essentially adoption, not biologically) and quitting my job to pursue my education at a university. These two things have drastically consumed my time and made me unable to formulate complete thought in the engaging and fascinating way I used to. Okay, let’s be honest, it was more chaos than fascination.

I’ve stumbled across a concept that I truly believed was far less prevalent that it actually is, until I was proven wrong but a plethora of students that contradicted my idea that maybe we are all inherently good and those bad eggs are just the ones who get attention in an attempt to make us feel as though we are all inherently bad. Perhaps I was wrong in the past, and we are more bad than good. Or perhaps my recent exposure to the shit moral values other people hold is the one that is misleading. Nevertheless, it absolutely boggles my mind how some people can think a certain way with no real understanding about the world before them.

The question was asked, “do we have a moral obligation to help those who are in need and less fortunate?” I would think the answer to this question is a common sense, no-brainer—yes. However, I was quickly smacked down in my thinking by the responses of many who’s answers were, astoundingly, “no.” No? How can this be? How can people think this way? In the recent months I have gotten to know, far more personally, my own struggle and the struggle of others and it’s become clearer and clearer that morality is related to one’s relationship with struggle itself. We use the idea of wealth inequality often, but it is the most crucial point to the idea that we owe nothing to anyone, often times relegating others to a death sentence by our greed and selfishness.

Poverty is not a self-made struggle. I am sure there are plenty of people who mismanaged their money, but there’s one glaring fact that people seem to dismiss when talking about those icky “poor people” – you have to have money in order to mismanage it. I have never met anyone who sacrificed feeding their family so they could buy new rims on their piece of shit Ford Explorer. That is what poverty is, by the way; a sacrifice. If you were to actually sit down and do the math, you would see that something needs to be sacrificed every single paycheck in order to survive. Whether it’s saying “I guess I don’t –really- need to pay that bill this week” or “how long can I ration potatoes until we go hungry,” you are sacrificing a part of your real-world existence in order to have something else you need. This is a systematic way of keeping people poor and unable to move forward. They simply do not have money to eat, let alone “mismanage.” The concept that these poor people are all lazy is also a fallacy. Statistics show that the majority of our poverty rates are from people who work full time for minimum wage.

This is a struggle, one of grave importance to the livelihoods of those around us. We are morally obligated to help those in need; to say that we aren’t is to ultimately decide that one person’s life is more important and more valuable than another’s—you’re simply BETTER than that poor person who needs food stamps to feed her child. That kind of egotistical, self-important and, in my opinion, evil mentality is exactly why the world is as fucked as it is now. It is not good enough to watch The Walking Dead and idolize the idea that every life matters, we have to live it in our daily lives. Maybe we can’t afford to send someone to college in order to gain them better employment, but at the very least we owe it to those who are less fortunate to at least think of them as people who are deserving of good quality life. How can we fight on behalf of freedom in oppressed countries while simultaneously saying we have no obligation to help those in need? How can people support an unjust war under the guise of morality, then turn around and shit on the single mother who works full time and still needs help? The hypocritical life stance doesn’t fly in the real world, and the reality of the situation is that success does not last forever and every single one of us, unless born millionaires, is going to plummet down into the sewers and need help to get back out.

This is a deep-rooted distancing from struggle; the epitome of morality, in my opinion. You cannot truly hold a moral standard unless you have a personal relationship with, at the very least, the idea of struggle and what that means for those around you, those in your communities and those sharing the world with you. Denying basic human dignity to people you may believe are “beneath” you is just a really shit way of approaching the world. And I, for one, am completely and utterly baffled that some hold these negative viewpoints. Quite frankly, it’s fucking disgusting.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

Life Is Your Design

There are these curve-balls that get thrown in our direction from time to time– hardships, decision-making and unexpected events; these are the ones that can make you stop and rethink every step you’ve taken to lead you to the point you are at now, and you find yourself pulling from every source of strength you’ve got in order to adapt and, hopefully, prevail. There’s a saying I’ve come to use, and try to embrace, often: “accept the mess,” and, just like most other subjects I choose to discuss, it’s a lot easier said than done. We are going to find ourselves failing, stumbling and falling like newborn calves; forcing yourself to be a perfect human being will not work, and has never worked in the history of mankind. I’m sure we’ve all heard people say that the people we idolize as perfect also have their own share of issues to face. We are comparing things that were never meant to be equal.

The majority of depression and negativity stems from being unable to embrace the fact that life is just messy, and maybe we want far more than we should. We are told we don’t work hard enough if life isn’t exactly the way we pictured it; we’re pegged as lazy or incompetent if we don’t follow the pre-designed algorithm that’s pushed on us from the first day we step foot in a public setting– graduations, “adult” jobs, family life and retirement plans– it’s all part of the design. Perhaps going into long tirades of social conspiracy theories that would imply we have zero control over anything is not the way to inspire change in attitudes and perceptions. I’d prefer to focus my thoughts in an area that is far more manageable– life is just messy.

In a society that places so much importance on appearances and being extraordinary, it’s easy to lose focus on the things that are actually important to us and the beauty that already exists to have the power to make us incredibly happy. Beauty is simplistic as its core. Most of my own life has been spent pushing back against myself; deciding that my own lack of drive for a family of my own meant that I was defective; and because graduation papers and “big girl” jobs had no appeal to me, I considered myself broken. At times this can be equated to perfectionism– over-extending ourselves when things aren’t picture perfect in our lives. I think we can all admit we had this vision of what our individual adult lives would be like, and had the panic attacks and stress when we realized its not going the way we envisioned. We fight against the paths we choose and the life we create, only to cause ourselves more pain and worry and depression.

I’ll let you in on a secret– life is untameable. The same things will happen over and over again– tragedy, failure and hardships will continue to rear their ugly little heads for the entire length of your life. Getting sucked into the design is natural– its all around us, at all times, and we are quite easily pulled down and forced to question ourselves. Rather than becoming a victim of the social system, accepting that life is messy (and will always be messy) could allow you more room for the things you actually do find enjoyable. Yes, it doesn’t always work and at times I find myself falling into the darkened pit of despair for what I may wish my life could be, but thankfully it doesn’t take long these days before I’ve had the strength to pull myself back up and refocus back to cherishing the small things I have that are far more significant than any paycheck or signed piece of paper.

All of these social constructs are simply man-made ideas, just like your own ideas, but for some reason they’ve been shoved into practice when each idea for a way of life is equally as valid as the next. I find this to be a poison– a toxic way of control used to force us to feel poorly about the way we choose to live and the paths we decide to take. Accepting the mess is also a way of saying, “I refuse to allow myself to feel poorly about the life I’ve created.”

Just do you, booboo.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

For Those Wounded On Mother’s Day

Fully knowing I was in for trouble, I still logged into Facebook on Mother’s Day and allowed myself to be assaulted by the myriad of posts thanking and glorifying mothers, which in itself is a profoundly beautiful thing, though admittedly one I personally find very painful. As I watch people and I see the relationships they have built, it fills me with an unspoken joy– that others have the support systems to know they are always safe. It also fills me with envy and sadness for something I do not possess. There is a special place in our hearts for people who have lost their mothers, but it has seemed socially taboo to allow room for those of us who have never had moms or have estranged and toxic relationships with our mothers.

I have never known what to say on mother’s day; it seems unacceptable to approach the subject of moms with bitterness or anger, and even the truth itself can come off hateful enough to be looked down upon. How do you tell others that your relationship with your mother is non-existent? How do you say, “my mom doesn’t love me and abandoned me a long time ago,” or even harder, “my parents abused me and kinda really fucked me up, so…” There is absolutely no easy way to divulge those painful facts of life, and lying or pretending as though it isn’t truth is no more healthy than full-on delusion. For myself, I have simply grown accustomed to saying, “I have no parents” and leaving it at that rather than going into the hours-long tirade of exactly why I have not spoken with my mother in years and remain in non-contact with the majority of my immediate family. Granted, claiming no parents also saddles me with a different kind of pity I never asked for and want no part of. Sadly, sometimes we choose the easiest paths.

I once wrote a piece about what it’s been like for me to live my teenage and adult life without a family, though focusing more on the positives I’ve gained in the family I have chosen and created along the way rather than the actual struggles I face in my day to day life. Those loved ones of mine have watched as I’ve fallen, over and over, when it comes to managing my feelings against the truths of my past, present and what will be of my future. Not only do I believe so firmly in loving yourself enough to protect yourself from harm, but I simultaneously believe in loving each other so strongly that we open our hearts and learn sincere compassion. At times, this has shown to be an incredibly contradictory place to be in. In the recent months I have found myself tested in this area, and have failed horribly. There is something to be said about people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the comfort and happiness of others, even those who have harmed them; but perhaps that sacrifice should never be made to begin with.

It’s no secret that I believe we have to fully love and protect ourselves in order to love and protect others; sometimes that comes with the price of seeming cruel, harsh or bitter. It is very easy to look at someone’s decisions and assume you know what prompted it; it is not so easy to let go of our own bias enough to give others the benefit of the doubt when it comes to choices we’ve deemed to be ‘mean’ or unnecessary. With our insecurities and self loathing comes a subtle idea that everything affecting us is done with a cruel heart, and… that’s not necessarily the case. I am still learning the difference between unintentional betrayal and maliciousness; no doubt this will be a life’s struggle.
There was a time in my life when I was so filled with anger that I could barely function– every relationship I had was toxic, fulfilling a self-perpetuated prophecy that I was unloveable. There was another time in my life when I was so overwhelmed by worthlessness that I internalized everything– something that did not even involve me suddenly became my fault and the thoughts revolving in my head forced me into thinking it was best if I were to leave this world and stop burdening everyone. And there were times in my life when I was a complete fool, approaching pain with open arms and inviting myself to be hurt again and again the exact same ways as before; wondering what I had done wrong to keep the cycle repeating.

A friend of mine gave me a piece of advice that sat with me for a while; he said, “abusers rarely ever see what they do as wrong, because if they did, they wouldn’t be able to do it.” This was profound to me, and though it seems as if it would be common sense, I had never really broken it down that simply before and allowed its true meaning to settle into me. If someone can’t see their abusive behavior enough to stop it or even acknowledge it, they can’t seek forgiveness and you can’t give it to them. If someone views themselves as without fault, there can be  no closure. If someone is unable to repent for their wrongdoings, intentional or not, there can be no relationship. I have said often that it is not so important whether you meant to harm someone or not, but rather it’s more important that you harmed someone in the first place. Love stems from a place of wanting what is best for someone at the expense of our own personal gain, and anything else, in my opinion, is not love but instead is guilt; and guilt is as empty an emotion as anger, hatred or sadness.

All relationships are give and take, a balance of what we give and what we receive in return. If you are giving someone your forgiveness, you should be taking away their regret. Should you find yourself in a relationship where that regret is not present, there is no room for you to openly forgive and accept abusive or painful behavior back into your life. Maybe you can build up a facade of a mended relationship, but the emptiness inside you will remain there, and when the pattern inevitably repeats itself, the repercussions could be severely damaging. Choose not the route that is solely based on appearances, but rather the one that provides you the tools and peace to prosper and progress happily through the mess of life. And if no one has told you this yet today, you are far more worthy of love in all shapes and sizes, than to placate your own or the guilt of others.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

I Hate People Who Say “I Hate People”

It seems to be a frequent trend for others to talk about how much they hate people– as a whole, of course, and it would never be based on racism or prejudice or stereotypes (though, let’s be honest, generalizing a hatred for people as a whole is sort of the whole point to stereotyping), and I’m left to my own state of confusion on how anyone could come to the conclusion that this mentality is warranted or acceptable– what possible benefit does one get from such a broad dislike? There are times I have tried to discuss the rationale others may have for why they feel the need to be so negative towards the human race and I’m given a barrage of reasons why this hatred is deemed acceptable– a list of all the crappy things others may, or may not, do as a justification for perpetuating a hate culture. Do you realize how ignorant and stupid you sound?

There is not a single person negating the fact that some people aren’t all that great, though I personally believe this has more to do with nurturing and compatibility than some ingrained evil that isn’t found in nature. Even those really shitty people have had horrible things happen in their lives and most likely were never taught the catered ways of coping with negativity; they most likely have lacked the emotional support of love and compassion during their formative years that have shaped their perceptions. How do we decide to handle that? We reinforce their negative perception and behavior by treating them as though they are worthless and horrible.

The concept of negative reinforcement has always baffled me to my core. It’s become impossible for me to understand why anyone would want to create a hostile atmosphere filled with tension and animosity between people; to perform small acts of betrayal and disrespect simply to get something we want when positive reinforcement provides us with nearly exactly the same results and promotes a far happier and healthier relationship between others.

When I see a homeless man on the street, my first instinct is not to assume this person is a criminal, mentally ill and dangerous, or somehow undeserving of my compassion. No, my first instinct is to offer whatever I can– whether that’s food, money or just a smile and some kind words. The amount of backlash I’ve received from others over this specific topic astounds and angers me. “They’re just going to use that money for drugs.” “They’re probably making more money on the corner of that intersection than you do at your full time job.”

And now I say, how dare you? How dare you decide a complete stranger’s motivations and history; how dare you toss your negativity into the wind and use it to forcefully impact another person’s life? If you’re someone who does this, you sicken me. You spew your hostility, congregate others around you and create this culture of hate based on prejudgment, cynicism and your own low self-worth. It makes me sick, and it saddens me all at once because I also know that the person shouting hatred and anger from the rooftops is someone in dire need of love themselves.

It’s not a sense of entitlement that causes us to act like assholes, but rather the cycle of hate that propels itself through our lives. Someone treats you like garbage; then you go out to dinner and treat the wait staff poorly; then they go home and are short with their significant others who then go to work the next morning and piss off their co-workers; then carrying that to the grocery store where they scream at an employee and the cycle repeats every single day. Everything we do impacts another person whether we want to believe it or not. The status updates we post on Facebook about how stupid the drive-thru attendant at our favorite fast food place was for screwing up our orders; how traffic is backed up for two hours on the highway and we curse out the other drivers only to find out there was a high impact car accident that involved fatalities; or the tone of voice we use with telemarketers who are simply trying to earn their minimum wage paychecks like everyone else.

Maybe your life is in shambles, maybe you’re unhappy and not getting what you want, maybe you’re blind to the beauty that surrounds you– to the power you have at your very fingertips that could feel the circle of joy that comes with simply being a nice person and impacting others positively. None of us are perfect, and I, myself, fail; we should hold ourselves accountable and make real attempts to do better every day. We are not all knowing or all powerful, and the times we are treated like less than in this society directly correlate to how often we are allowing this hate culture to continue. When you find the peace I seem to always be preaching about and really begin to accept and embrace the reality around you, the small things like a screwed up food order and traffic no longer matter at all and the lifted weight of removing anger and hatred is one of the most refreshing and fulfilling things we can encounter.

Therefore, I wait my turn even if I am in a rush and am often rewarded for my patience; I drive the speed limit, let people merge, stop for pedestrians and contently sit in idle traffic often to be rewarded with easy and joyful travels; I am blessed with a plethora of friends who have become more like family to me, with countless stories of meeting strangers and putting in the effort to make someone feel as though they are worthy. Often I find myself being described as having a light inside me, being uplifting in a world that seems so stepped on. The experiences I have with others have made me feel closer to spirituality than any church or bible verse, and as I continue through my days, I am blessed with the freedom of being more honest, accepted and expressive than I ever have.

It is a blessing to know that whatever stems inside of me is propelled outward into the atmosphere; a constant reminder that I am loved, trusted and respected. It is in knowing that we are worthy, that everyone else around us is worthy as well, whether we are aware of their personal histories or truths; with knowing that as long as I remain loving, open and continue going through life giving every person the benefit of the doubt and treating them as though they are an extension of myself, that I can be certain I will never be without love and never be without companionship.

You should really try it. It’s fucking awesome.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

You’re Worth More Than That

The effects of emotional pain can be seen in many various forms, and I know for myself that I have cycled through a plethora of different emotions for several different periods of time in my life. Finally, I have settled on one that is providing me the medium and harmony necessary for true healing. The progress I have discovered in my daily life absolutely shocks me and, at times, I am left to try processing what this happiness feels like as it has been void from my life for as long as I can remember. Throughout my day, I am often reminded of my own truth by many words of wisdom and quotations from others who are traveling parallel paths to my own, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the solidarity it provides me with.

And though I am making the most earnest attempts at remaining positive and compassionate, I occasionally run into speed bumps that I am still learning to cope with. It reminds me of the cliche statements my friends have said to me, and how during the time they were spoken I was far too sucked into misery to take them seriously, but their truth and value have only strengthened with time. The overall sense of peace I have found inside myself has pushed me into a life that I could only dream of, one where I am confident in my progress, and yet when those speed bumps creep up, I immediately sink back to the low feeling of disappointment and shame for not having a better grasp on my own feelings and behaviors.

We speak to each other with so much more respect than we speak to ourselves; constantly urging one another that we are only human, they expect far too much of themselves, no one is perfect and they should cut themselves slack once in a while; and here we remain, berating ourselves when we act with human qualities we hold higher in someone else. The self bullying we engage in forces us to believe we are held at a higher standard and, in essence, are capable of more and better than we believe the people around us are. There is nothing wrong in wanting to push ourselves to be the best we can be and to direct ourselves down a path of working towards excellence but the mental beatdowns and supposition we place on ourselves are actually self-righteous and serve only to perpetuate emotional pain. You wouldn’t walk up to someone and tell them they are worthless, why would you do it to yourself?

In reality, we are easy targets for our own ingrained bullying. We see ourselves every day, when we are at our lowest, we exploit our secrets and mistakes and we combine all the things we know will hurt us most and force us to re-live that pain on a constant basis. We all do it in some way and to break from that pattern of self abuse is not an easy feat in a world where appearances matter and we are expected to conform to identities of strength and sacrifice. Our idols are people from history who have martyred themselves to causes they believed in, characters in movies or regular people who have suffered great tragedy and come out on the other side with amazing success, people of high physical beauty and talent, and though we should know the majority of us are regular, we still compare and desire only to have found ourselves coming up less than we desired.

The moral of the story is that we first have to learn how to destroy the oppressing voice inside our heads before we can enter into a life of ease and tranquility. We have to focus on our personal strengths and constantly remind ourselves that we are worthy, and we have to change our perceptions to even allow room for good things to show themselves to us. We get wrapped up in this way of thinking that simply can’t work– “if these certain things happen, then I will finally be happy.” This is false, this is negative, this is a failure waiting in the bushes for you with a knife ready to strike. The amount or value of our possessions, the situations in which we live, the spouses and partners we find are not the answer to fixing ourselves when it comes to our own self-destruction, but instead, the answer is looking in the mirror and saying “this is me, what good things I do have? What can I work on?” and then showing ourselves a little bit of the compassion we dole out to everyone around us.

There is an innate peace that comes with acceptance– with breathing in deeply and allowing our minds to be filled up with compliments, with knowledge, confidence and understanding. When you find peace within yourself, everything else will suddenly fall where it needs to be and only then will you be faced with that contentment you unknowingly fought against all those years whenever you called yourself fat, ugly and worthless.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

My Cynical Soulmate

It has never been my opinion that a soul mate is a singular person our hearts search for our whole lives; that when we meet, we know instantly we are meant to be together, the planets align and we are destined to live in happiness with one another until the day we grow old and die. All the magical, fairy-tale love stories never appealed to me, and I found myself constantly accused of being cynical and jaded. The questions I was asked became gruesome to me– “What do you have to look forward to if not marriage and kids? You don’t want unconditional love? Do you not have any goals, then?” While I could tackle each question with a myriad of answers and suggestions, I have, instead, found myself remaining quite silent on the issue until now. Truths don’t always have to be wrapped up with a negative connotation, and perhaps a perception adjustment would allow the smallest opening for the whole slew of new possibilities to blossom inside each of us.

My heart sees the positives in acknowledging the truth– how beauty in reality far surpasses any misconception would could try to convince ourselves of; how the act of maintaining a lifestyle in which we lie to ourselves ultimately bases our entire existence in unattainable expectations that lead to disappointments and far more heartache than necessary. There is an impressive and powerful possibility of living in optimism while simultaneously allowing room for recognition of sensibility.

As I watched the pressures and emotional hoops my friends would go through to pair with another, I found myself questioning the motivations behind monogamous relationships and what ultimately drives us to find a “life mate.” Why do we fill our minds with concepts that defy nature and set ourselves up for failure when there are endless alternatives that could increase our self-awareness and allow us the time and space necessary to learn to love ourselves? We close ourselves off to the idea that loving and being loved by multiple people throughout the sliding scale of our lives is another very valuable lifestyle to choose from; all the while maintaining expectations of life that are incredibly difficult for others to fulfill. We cannot promise the future; we cannot know what tomorrow brings or what changes we will go through to shape and mold the multitude of personalities we will hold in our lifetimes. The pain of uncoupling and heartbreak comes from an expectation– that the person we partnered with promised to stay with us forever, and no one can really uphold that promise.

I choose not to participate; there is nothing about a false promise, one that I know in my heart cannot be kept, that appeals to me. It is not a lifestyle I want for myself and the decision to remain open to the idea I will hold many different loves in my life is not a negative factor that leaves me void of purpose. My mind knows a soul-mate is many– many different people that span over a plethora of changes that will happen as we make our way through life; people who seemingly spawn from nowhere and leave you in a state of shock over the intensity and rapidness of their impact on you. They imprint themselves on you; leaving a stain that marks the before and after of their existence. You will transform right in front of their eyes; you will molt the shell of who you once were and embrace the reshaping of who you will become, and though that change will come from within, it wouldn’t be without the challenges they impose on us. And at some point in time, you will stop and say to yourself “I can’t remember what life used to be like before this person came along.”

Then one day, they will leave and you will be faced with the choice to wallow in the pain of absence or use the experience to follow life into the next stage where you will meet the next soul-mate who will ravish your perception and force you to do it all over again. The cycle will repeat–over and over– until we die, and it would be my hope that we die knowing the impact other’s had made on us was not in vain– that we gave the same love to others in the same fashion. Because the gift of life is that we give and we take; from the day we’re born until our last breath we are a constant machine of emotions, spewing forth energy that affects every surrounding. I choose to give openly and freely without restriction, and therefore accept the same in return. The love in my life is abundant, and I cannot, no matter how hard I try, view that as cynical and jaded.

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

How I Accept Everyone

“I think love is being selfless, and I could never see myself as selfless. It’s accepting someone for who they are, but that’s just bullshit. You don’t accept an abusive person just because that’s the way they are.” — my friend Kyle.

My fascination with how other people view the world is fueled more and more with every new person I experience. The conversations I have with people on what the word “love” means in their individual perceptions find their way into my daily life– in my work ethic, my interactions with strangers or the way I react when my car windshield is struck by a pebble and cracked, though putting that into public words sounds weirder than I anticipated. An outside opinion on love is thrilling, and it never ceases to amaze me what people form into coherent thoughts and fluid sentences.

To think a single word could cause so much discourse amongst the population, yet the feeling of love is often described in the very same way, has caused me to look deeper into the differences we have as a society. Interestingly enough, each thought of something varies but the feelings are identical… and, well, that’s another article for another time.

The concept of accepting someone for who they are seems to have been skewed over time– an acceptance for a person’s core has become related to drawing them into our own individual lives. This couldn’t be further from the truth; it is not the same thing to invite a person with open arms and naivety, but an understanding that you are powerless; that your control ultimately means nothing when it comes to the relevance in someone else’s eyes. Delving into the business of changing others is a failure in the waiting– a heartbreak, not for them but for you. We have no real power; we cannot alter what we cannot control. No, I do not believe that people are incapable of changing; becoming lost causes who simply learn how to lie better. Yes, I think we absolutely contribute to helping shape a person with our influences; though emotional separation is required should one decide to take on the part of being a role model. In the end, we only have power over ourselves and immediate circumstances, and accepting that a person is a prick doesn’t mean we allow them to affect us or bring that negativity into our own existences. The release of blame, malcontent and feeling poorly simply comes from recognizing that there are some people who are not meant for us.

It took me many years and several failed relationships with people to understand what compatibility actually meant; how some people will simply be unhealthy for each other no matter what the intentions are or how open and tolerant you may be. We will meet people who have no business being in our lives whatsoever, and learning to accept yourself, first and foremost, will make those transitions all the easier. The key to understanding the emotional separation that comes with saying “this person and I just aren’t meant to coexist together” is found in each of our self-value systems; the better we feel about ourselves, the easier it becomes to accept reality. Sadly, most of us attach a negative feeling and connotation to when two non-compatible people don’t instantly form an inseparable bond together. This notion that we must befriend everyone is nothing more than ignorance; the idea that there is something “wrong” with one or the other who don’t create that friendship is misguided at best– why can’t two people just not it together?

Our society places so much importance on the status of our popularity– the more people we befriend, the more attractive we seem and subsequently feel. While I agree with the concept that we should all strive to make connections with others, the reality is in the plethora of personalities; dictating there are more people who are not compatible than people who are, and none of that is nearly as negative as we display or internalize. It is a concept of insecurity that fuels our high expectations of social connection. Our opinions of ourselves are low– to the point of needing external validation, and should one decide they are not well-matched with us, it becomes an insult as if we internalize the many ways we could be “wrong.” As subjective as right and wrong are, I see a concerning lack of awareness for the idea that something right for one is not necessarily right for another.

The rejection feels as though we are not worthy; our self-worth is dictated by another; accepting ourselves becomes a battle that most would tell you just plain sucks. It’s my belief the perception needs a shift; an understanding brought by awareness of ourselves, our place in the world and our focuses should become primal instinct. We are not nearly as different as we’d like to believe, and while our thought processes might vary from person to person, our feelings remain identically described and would suggest we all feel pain, we all feel happiness and we all feel love in almost the exact same way.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

original publishing can be found on Collective Lifestyle.

Lifting The Plague of Disconnection

As I sat down to attempt a viewing of Django for the third time, promptly pressing the stop button as the display pictured an innocent black man being ripped to shreds by dogs, my empathy got the best of me and I felt the wave of disgust fill my stomach. The realistic violence of the scene caused me to step back and wonder, yet again, what the appeal of these visuals could be. Along with what it says about our progressing society that even an elderly woman in her 80’s would consider graphically depicted movies to be “too slow.” The true problem, however, and the one that makes my skin crawl and stomach ache, is the detachment from our hearts being played out in front of our day to day lives with each other as an every day, normal occurrence.

The list of classic movies have downgraded exponentially; our minds centered around shock value and excitement with no discerning thought to the moral bankruptcy coupling our “progressing” humanity. We are failing.

It starts with the way we drive, to how we speak towards cashiers and servers, to the judgments we make towards “fat” and “ugly” strangers on the street. It’s that all encompassing attitude that somehow we are better, and the eye contact we make with an elderly woman at a bus stop is, most certainly, the highlight of her whole life. It’s the solitude and isolating attitude that perpetuated the hatred involved in slavery– denying the rights of others simply because we can; telling someone with mental illness to “man-up” because if something is easy for us then it must be simple for everyone else. It’s deciding whether or not someone is deserving of healthcare based solely on monetary status. And while I don’t profess to have all the answers, I do, at least, acknowledge there is a problem darkening the quality of life of millions of people on this earth.

This problem isn’t religious, nor is it political, but an anti-human virus that is plaguing all of our hearts– mine, yours and the clerk at 7-11. The very fundamentals of love and compassion are crumbling beneath our feet with every middle finger we flip at a passing car, every insult we hurl towards someone in line at McDonald’s and every homeless person we step past on the street, glaring with disgust and muttering sentiments of “getting a job” in their direction. Our interest in each other has severely declined with the higher wages we seek and the more advanced technology we acquire. With every step forward, the link between us in our humanity snaps and breaks that much more.

And now we don’t know who our neighbors are; now if someone on the street was being robbed we would turn a blind eye as if it’s none of our business. We preach against abortions while hundreds of thousands of children rot away in tortured foster homes– in a system that doesn’t give a damn about them. We cut in line, we spread our hatred like wildfire, all the while building feel-good systems of slacktivism without having to actually lift a finger and do something positive and productive with our time and energy.

While these sentiments can cause distraught in the hearts of many, I still firmly believe in love; and with that love comes a strength greater than any outside force imaginable. It’s the force that powers us to smile at passing strangers, to hold open doors and make small talk with the old man waiting for his train; it’s the force that can push two people from opposite sides of the world together for a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment. It comes with a price, and that price is putting our hands up to ego and shoving back against the societal norm of ignorance and blindness.

Greet the new neighbors that just moved in across the street, strive to make true connections to the people around you and believe in the faith that acceptance starts within yourself. The answer to life is not in work, or responsibility; it’s not in the objects we acquire or the self-serving atmospheres we create. The answer to life is in each other. It is in people; it is in laughter and tears; it is in holding a stranger’s hand and learning everything you can about their journey.

There is no fear that can disrupt me when my heart is completely open; when people are invited and accepted with open arms and loving souls. I will never be in poverty, nor at the hands of an ill mind; death does not quake me as my priority is humanity.

original article published on Collective Lifestyle.