Family

Content Warning: Family stuff. Obviously.

 

I’ve been thinking about the notion of family lately.

That there’s chosen family, and family you’re born into.

And that you can’t choose the family you’re born into, so as an adult you must choose how much to relate to them. Which parts of your life to let them into, and how deeply. Which joys and dreams and fears and hurts to open, and how much vulnerability to show.

That we’re hardwired to love our family unit, and that it hurts when things don’t happen the way they’re supposed to. When family dysfunctions.

The broken promise of unconditional love and support.

 

Realising for the first time that our parents, with all their wisdom and all of their experience, are wrong.

That they don’t know better, no matter how much they insist they do.

That I have used the gifts they gave me to become a better person than they are. That I’ve worked hard on it, and haven’t stopped trying.

 

I love my family. But I’m still working out in what ways, and how much. Still figuring out the limits of my boundaries, which ground I’m willing to give up and which ground I’ll stay firm in. The battles I’ll fight, and the ones I’ll let slide.

And I know that in all of this, all of us are just doing our best. Beautiful and broken.

Responding to Privilege

As I sit here in Yallingup, lookingout across the hills and lakes, surrounded by kangaroos and kookaburras, blue sky and the scent of smoke on the wind, I remind myself that life isn’t fair.
That I didn’t do anything to earn this.
That I don’t deserve this.

So what do I do? Do I poison the beautiful landscape with guilt? Do I sabotage the opportunities I have for joy?

I think a better response is to cultivate awareness, gratitude and generosity.
To recall that very few people in the world have seen a view like this, and to know that I am privileged without rhyme or reason.
To be grateful for the gifts that have given to me, either by chance or by destiny.
And to share the resources, opportunities and blessings I have. To create something beautiful in the world for others, because I can.

I’m still figuring out what that looks like. The ways I can give to others that light me up rather than drain me. While I figure it out, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and maybe one day I’ll find a way to give enough back to this world that’s given me so much.

Us vs Them

When people hold beliefs that threaten the things we care about, it’s easy to see them as enemies. Perhaps they believe things that attack our own values and beliefs, or threaten the emotional (or even physical) safety of our friends, loved ones or selves. That’s tough, and feeling defensive and angry is a good and appropriate response.

Yet I would argue it is not the best one. Getting angry and seeing people as enemies leads us to the absolute thinking of “Us vs Them”. The reality is far harder to consider: that it’s Us talking with Us. That there are no lines in the sand, there are no sides to pick: that we’re all on the same field and no one is the enemy.

John and Hank Green talk a lot about understanding one another complexly. That regardless of our views, it’s important to see the human in each other, and to empathise with and understand people. Even people who hold beliefs that might be hurtful, or threatening to us. Even people we are tempted to see as enemies.

Having said that, I don’t mean to imply that we should listen indefinitely to hate speech. But I think that we need to listen to others, even in our hurt and anger, if we want them to do the same to us. The world is a better place when we understand each other more deeply.

An important caveat: when we can no longer listen (because we’re too hurt or angry or whatever), it’s best to remove ourselves from those discussions. If we cannot respond from a place of grounding and compassion, we are likely to do more harm than good, to lash out and sever ties, burn bridges. We must take care of ourselves first, and if we cannot ask the person to stop speaking, we need to step away so that we can’t hear for a bit.

Why I Blog

As you might recall from my blog post celebrating my 1000th entry, this blog started off as a place (indeed, not a journal to write in but a domain to live in) for me to process and share my thoughts and experiences, and to hide them in plain sight. Thirteen years ago there was a little bit more anonymity – it wasn’t quite so easy to find information about other human beings on the internet yet, and so this was my quiet corner where I could pour my heart out to the void. I loved that idea of sharing my thoughts with someone, but I hated the risk of doing it in person. Blogging for me, then, became my safe space.

 

Things didn’t always work out. There was that disastrous leak, where my blog began circulating my high school and I was abused and threatened for sharing my inner-most thoughts on the web. It didn’t stop me, though. Over time it grew boring, I think, to keep teasing and bullying me, and the world moved on. And I kept learning and sharing and growing, writing all the while.

 

As I get older, I’ve realised that the internet isn’t quite the safe haven I hoped it would be when I was fourteen. I’ve learned that if you know how to look, you’re able to find. That where once I sought anonymity, now there is more data about me than ever before. And most importantly of all, I’ve learned that the internet never forgets. I couldn’t eradicate this place even if I tried.

 

Therefore I’ve learned to be a little more careful with what I share. Somehow the message finally sunk in that this “void” I’ve been pouring myself out to is not quite so empty as I wanted to think. It is a beautiful thing to be open and aware about onesself, but it is a little foolish, I think, to be open at all times to all people. For that reason, very few of my blogs are public these days, and they’re more for me to come to understand myself than they are for me to share with others.

 

No big announcements here. Just… thoughts.

Activating Super Zen

For a long time, I believed “If you just get into the right mindset, everything will be easier.” If you remember to practice gratitude, if you become deeply mindful, if you step into your heartspace, if you choose optimism instead of pessimism etc. etc., life is better.

I have only recently realised that sometimes it isn’t a matter of choice.

Sometimes, no matter how determined you are to think positively or to be mindful, it’s impossible until the prerequisites are met: safety, security, peace etc. If you’re on fire, you just won’t have the ability to be mindful until the fire is out. I liken it to getting enough resources to activate an ability: you can’t become Super Zen without first obtaining 200 Quiet and 300 Peace.

Just food for thought.

My Values

In my work, the word values is thrown around a lot. Everyone has them, and they define what things are important to us. Through my education and reflections, personal and professional, I’ve spent a long time thinking about my values but not really being able to figure out what they were. I had a rough idea about what was important to me but I could never really define or understand in beyond a vague sense.

And then one of my mentors gave me a list of values and the challenge of picking just a handful of ones that were important to me. I found it much easier to go down a list and tick ones which resonated with me rather than trying to figure them out for myself, I ended up ticking 97 out of the 400 listed (with a few that I’d added). Of those I picked twelve which were very important to me, and from those 12 I selected my top three. My key values are:

  • Courage
  • Fitness
  • Frugality
  • Gentleness
  • Honesty
  • Intelligence
  • Introspection
  • Order
  • Sexuality

My top three are:

  • Discipline
  • Helpfulness
  • Solitude

 

What do you think? Sounds like me, or not at all?

It’s an exercise I really valued (doubtless the introspective side of myself), and I learned a lot about Beth who did it too. If you’d like to give it a go, we used this list, but there are plenty of others on the interwebs.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2004/11/list-of-values/