This week I had what should have been a mundane interaction abruptly turn into a time I had to put my foot down. A piece of mail for a former neighbor arrived in our mailbox. So I did the neighborly thing and sent a message asking if they wanted it forwarded somewhere else. Instead of replying with "no," "yes," or simply not responding, their reply was a childish mini-rant about how they didn't want to hear from me because I refuse to accept responsibility for all their emotions.
This is probably a good time to mention this former neighbor and I dated for about a year. We broke up because we each wanted a different kind of relationship. Two people wanting different things from a relationship is a very normal and healthy reason to discontinue a relationship. What wasn't healthy about this particular relationship was how that mismatch in intentions was expressed.
Even though I stated quite clearly and on many occasions that I did not want to build a life with this person, when they said that was fine, they didn't actually mean it. What they actually meant was "I'll wait until you see the light and change your mind." In a classic expression of their unresolved toxic-masculinity, they weren't taking no for an answer and attempted to socially engineer their desired outcome in the background.
Unfortunately for both of us, many months passed before I realized what was going on behind the scenes. I ended it when I figured it out, but not before they had arranged their life around me. By then they were so disappointed by my non-reciprocation that when I called it quits they placed all the responsibility for their hurt squarely in my hands.
Fortunately for me, I have done enough therapy that I could take responsibility for my participation in our unhealthy dynamic and draw a healthy boundary before taking on the hurt they caused themselves. Unfortunately for them, they refused to look at themselves and continue to stew in their self-made betrayal soup. Self-work is hard, so I decided to be understanding and give them space to work through their feelings.
This week when I read that text message chock full of the same old bullshit I realized my courtesy had only functioned as accommodation. They are clearly making no progress toward accountability for their own experience and I officially hit my limit. By now we have been broken-up much longer than the amount of time we dated. Enough is enough.
So I told them to stop already.
Something I wish I could also say to all the people who have more than enough money to meet their financial needs but choose to complain about having to participate in funding the society they live in and benefit from. I sat through a tax law update training session that amounted to merely an hour of anti-tax-pro-big-business propaganda. The out-of-state presenter wasted an hour of my life questioning whether Portland really needed to create a new tax to fund a solution to our un-housed crisis.
The tax she railed against was passed in 2020 by nearly two-thirds of voters. It collects 1% of the profits from businesses that bring in more than $5million of revenue. It also collects 1% of taxable income from individuals who make more than $125,000 (or $200,000 for joint filers). So, did Portland really need this tax on high-ish earning individuals and businesses to support the unhoused? Yes. Yes, we really did.
We as a collective metropolitan community have some collective expenses. That means we need to raise collective funds. Not from the people who use the services because if they could afford it they wouldn’t need the services. We need to raise these collective funds from the people who have the money. Most especially from the people who currently horde the money (Jeff Besozes of the world, I'm looking at you).
The businesses subject to this tax are going to be fine. The high-earning humans subject to this tax are going to be fine. Those individuals are also going to be fine paying the additional 1% to fund the preschool for all initiative. And their minute contributions will get a lot of other people much closer to fine. More folks will have stable housing, which leads to stability in all other areas of life. More children will have access to early education, which leads to greater opportunity for the rest of their lives. Society needs these people to succeed and have stability.
So please, stop with the pushback. You. Will. Be. Fine.
This attitude is similarly rampant among folks who protest mask mandates or vaccine requirements or spread false news. I see it in the people working to restrict access to abortion services and voting. There are so many people living incredibly privileged lives who seem unable to stop themselves from telling other people what they should be doing with theirs. Especially people who are less fortunate than they are, despite making no effort to understand their (often tragic) circumstances.
Maybe it’s the stress of rigidly controlling themselves. They try so hard to put the world into a box it plainly does not fit in, all the while denying much of the actual reality all around them. I guess all that unresolved cognitive dissonance becomes overwhelmingly stressful. And because our society does not teach people how to healthfully manage stress or deal with big emotions, they try to stress-control everything around them.
Just like the health care facility in Appleton, WI currently trying to stop several employees from starting work at another health care facility. Rather than consider what it did as an employer to cause 7 of it's highly valuable employees to leave, they filed a lawsuit claiming the employees were "poached" and trying to use the court system to make them stay. Apparently the soon-to-be former employer even had the opportunity to present counter-offers to these employees, but declined that opportunity to persuade them to stay. Small wonder those folks are headed to (what I hope) are greener employment pastures.
It's everywhere. And I'm sick of it. I think a lot of folks are sick of it.
People are literally gathering to scream into the void in an attempt to express some of the frustration and exhaustion bubbling up inside them. Good. I say go for it. Scream, flail, hit a pillow with a tennis racket like my sister used to do when we were kids. Have an all-out adult tantrum. It's a perfectly reasonable response to the current state of the world.
Also, consider screaming at some of the people who are not doing everything within their power to make things better for the rest of us. We have all the technology and ingenuity required to remake society in an environmentally sustainable way, but we have not yet done it. There is more than enough wealth in this country to house and feed and educate every single person who lives here. But we are not doing it.
So, to everyone not doing your part to make the world a more equitable, more sustainable, healthier place. Please. Please. Stop. Staaaaaahp already. Stop playing the victim and start looking at yourself. Get your shot. Wear your mask. Pay your damn taxes. Learn what consent is and how it works. Let other people be whoever they are and love whoever they love. Enough is enough.
Information and Inspiration
My top 5 favorite movies of all time form an eclectic list. In no particular order they are: Drop Dead Gorgeous, Clue, The Fifth Element, Big Trouble in Little China, and Star Wars. Each of those are very different in theme, style, setting, characters, mood, basically everything. What they have in common, and what I especially enjoy about them, is they are each very particularly of their era. They are all clear and saturated products of their time. And they are marvelous for it.
That list hasn't changed in a long time, until this week when I added a new all-time favorite. And the addition isn't even a movie. It's a TV show. But it belongs on my all-time favorites list because it too feels particular to this moment in time. Not because the story is unique, or because the special effects are innovative, but because the way it's told is distinctly avant-garde. The wealthy, privileged, heteronormative characters choose to move through the world in ways that are roundly anti-status-quo. It's what I hope will be the future of how media portrays humans relating to each other.
It's called "Ted Lasso" and it's about an American college football coach who gets hired to coach a Premier League football club in England, despite having never coached the sport and knowing very little about it. The club's new owner hires Coach Lasso because she wants him to fail, in the hope that he will bring the whole club crashing down with him. A salacious beginning to a show that is ultimately filled to the brim with emotional reckoning and growth.
What makes Coach Lasso so excellent is that he’s constantly working to inspire everyone around him to be a better version of themselves. In words and actions, he uplifts, nudges, and creates space for everyone to be fully themselves. Through his own example he demonstrates honesty and forthrightness. He acknowledges his mistakes (especially to the people directly affected) and is unabashedly accountable for his actions. Most importantly, he asks no less from everyone else.
Just as happens in the real world when somebody leads with that kind of example, the people around him follow suit. The show is chock-full of people owning their own shit and working to practice new patterns of thought and action that will more aptly serve the outcomes they desire. And it spreads out from there, like ripples in a pond. Person after person confronts their inner world and comes out stronger for the effort. And it works on almost everyone.
Coach Lasso makes end-roads with most folks because he meets them where they are and they are willing to look at themselves (eventually, if not immediately). Gradually, more and more people show up to more and more interactions with a fuller understanding of what they (emotionally) bring with them into an engagement. That propensity toward vulnerability allows for more genuine interactions, which deepens trust and leads to deeper and more fulfilling relationships.
The only guy who misses out is the one character who doesn't want to confront the root of their own insecurities. And that’s why Coach Lasso can't reach them. It was sad to watch an otherwise lovely and interesting person go from timid and creative to callous and calculating, letting their insecurities absorb them while they pushed everyone else away. Their struggle, too, is highly relatable. It's not easy to confront your own demons, even though it is definitely worth the effort. In the words of the delightful team psychologist, “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Maybe they'll come around in Season 3.
The fictitious Coach Lasso inspires everyone around him to embrace being in-process, to give themselves grace, and to keep on trying. He never gives up on himself and he never gives up on anyone else. I want to be like that. I want to be inspiring by the way I move through the world. I want to give everyone around me permission to do and be, and to do better and be better. Partly because it will feel good for me, and partly because we have to.
This world will not survive, and we will not survive what the world will become, if we don't figure out how to make some significant changes. And although it is necessary, it won't be possible if we all keep doing things the same way we have been doing them. If we keep relating to each other the same way we have been relating to each other. And we're not going to do anything differently if we keep practicing what we already know.
We need to branch out. And one of areas we can start with is our entertainment media. It's quite telling that many of the new movies and TV shows coming out lately are actually "re-boots" of things that already exist. Or needless sequels to stories that were concluded initially. I just learned there are 9 Fast and Furious movies, with a 10th due in 2023. I haven's seen most of them all, but I remember feeling perfectly adequate closure at the conclusion of the first one.
Not that re-watching old favorites is inherently bad. Given that the most recently released movie on my all-time favorites list came out in 1999, I clearly enjoy re-experiencing media that continues to bring me entertainment and satisfaction. There's a certain comfort in what is familiar. A small sense of safety and sureness in knowing what I'm about to experience, even if it's only for a couple of hours at a time.
Maybe one of the reasons we as consumers are collectively wallowing in the past is because the future is so uncertain. I can certainly relate to that. We've spent the last two years living through unprecedented event after unprecedented event after unprecedented event. I'm starting to think we have run out of precedent altogether. I don't even know if there will be a planet to retire on, so that makes it hard to motivate myself to invest my time in retirement planning. So sometimes I watch one of my favorite movies instead of updating my budget spreadsheet.
But I don't always want to retreat into the familiar. I want to spend just as much time (if not more) exploring new things and discovering new parts of myself. Ultimately, I want my past to be part of the me that's moving steadily toward my future. I want to take the lessons I learned and the fun I had and apply them to the life I live today. And I have to be the one to do that.
Among all the old favorites that surface again and again, there is one recurring theme I find especially noteworthy. The tale of an other-worldly, all-powerful entity that shows up, takes over, and wags its finger at humanity, telling us to get our shit together, or else. In the end, it's our humanity that convinces the interloping authority to give us another chance. Our humanness saves the day. This is exemplified in tons of films from the 1951 "Day the Earth Stood Still" to the much more recent "Superintelligence."
It's like we know the antidote to what ails us, but we refuse to accept it. Maybe one reason we keep repeating the same stories is we’re not listening to what we keep trying to tell ourselves. All the profound things I read and listen to and watch have been said by countless people over and over in each generation. I watched "Do The Right Thing" during the racial justice uprising in the wake of George Floyd's murder. 31 years after it's original release, it’s like it was talking about that very same week in 2020. It would still feel present and applicable if I watched again tomorrow, in 2022.
Doing the same thing again and again is perfectly fine if what we want is to continue to produce the results we already have. Unfortunately, we can't afford to do that for very much longer. We also can't wait for an all-powerful, off-world authority to arrive, or continue to hold out for a less effortful path to a better world. There's no way to skip out on doing the work. There's no shortcut to ourselves. Because in the end it will be our humanness that will save us. So let's tell the old stories, but let's tell them in a new way. Just like we live each new day in the same routine but with fresh perspective. If Ted Lasso can do it, so can you.
I don’t actually remember the last time I was bored. I have participated in activities I found uninteresting, attended seminars that dragged, and spent hours on something after which I definitely wished for that time back. But I don't actually remember a prolonged state of helpless boredom. Even throughout my childhood memories, I remember always feeling like I had an option for something to do.
Boredom seems to me to be the feeling that nothing is engaging me in this moment and I don't know what to do with myself. Maybe I don't remember childhood boredom because I didn't linger in that state. I have always had a vast imagination, so I'm sure as soon as boredom struck I just disappeared into a colorful and stimulating world of my own creation. I'm suspect I don't feel prolonged boredom now as an adult because I always have a backlog of things on my to-do list. Running my own business means my work is never-ending, and I have a mental pile of potential personal projects that would reach outer space if I stacked it up in the real world.
I also have many hobbies and many causes I care about. I have wondered from time to time if one reason people feel bored is because they don't have big enough problems to solve. According to scientific experts in the matter of boredom, I am kind of right. It makes a difference whether we feel like we're "being an effective agent in the world." When we are not having the impact on the world we would like to, in creeps that familiar sensation of irritating restlessness known as boredom.
I think it is equally possible some people are stuck because there are too many problems in the world that need solving. And since it's impossible for one person to tackle them all, it could be difficult to know where to begin. Decision paralysis is a very real phenomenon, but it seems like something quite different than boredom. Maybe some of us are just looking in the wrong places to resolve our boredom. Many of the suggestions for how to beat boredom seem like nothing more than escapism to me.
Trying to avoid a lack of meaningful participation in the world around me by scrolling through social media or binge watching Netflix certainly doesn't fill me with a feeling of agency and inspiration. I think the most important reason I don't suffer from boredom is that I have cultivated a practice of engaging with myself. I spend hours each week doing nothing more than sitting with myself through my Taiji practice. Any time I am void of other stimuli, I can just breathe and experience whatever sensations presently occur in my body.
According to those experts, boredom is helpful because it pushes us to act. The action we take is, of course, up to us. And since there is no one-size-fits-all cure to boredom, we each have to figure out for ourselves what our void is before we can begin to fill it. It turns out we have to explore for ourselves what we want to engage in. Something we should be doing in any case. The good news is: it doesn't matter what you are doing. It only matters whether it matters to you.
Information and Inspiration
Every January 1st my best friend and I calmly walk into the frigid Columbia river, turn around, hold hands, and dunk. Then we run the fuck out of the water as fast as our frozen legs will allow. Some years it's just the two of us, and some years a few crazy friends take the plunge too. At some point we began taking a video each year and posting it to social media.
It started 16 years ago when we were training at the same dojo and the whole school went for the polar plunge. That first dip was way outside my comfort zone and it was also how we first became friends. We've kept it going ever since because it's good to start the year with something scary. After that, everything else seems a little less daunting. This year it felt doubly right for the beginning of a year that is more unknown than known.
I have had many challenges in my life. Some I volunteer for - like the New Years dunk - and others are thrust upon me by circumstance. Fortunately, I also have a great deal of privilege. I am a white, femm-presenting human in modern society. I am college educated. I have a well-respected job. Recognizing my privilege doesn't mean I need to get rid of it and suffer in solidarity with those less fortunate than I. It means I need to go first when it's time to do a difficult or scary thing because I am in a good position to do that thing with less drastic consequences than others in a more vulnerable position.
So that's what I did this week when I decided to finally address a long-standing issue of one person's problematic behavior in my social community. Many people have been whispering about this person and their unhealthy and damaging actions for years. I was one of the whisperers. But I didn't do anything about it because nobody else was doing anything about it. I realized this week that someone needs to go first. So I did.
It's too soon to tell what the fallout will be, but I hope whatever drama unfolds will culminate in the community addressing the problem. I addressed the individual directly and the group as a whole to be transparent in my efforts. I don't want to secretly ostracize this person and play social chess in the background to avoid them, or to convince other people to avoid them. The problem has persisted (with this person and others) because any efforts to deal with it in the past have been quiet, behind closed-doors, and without broader community back-up.
As a well-respected member of the community, known for my level head and even disposition, I was the perfect person to go first on this one. I will likely face fewer detrimental social ramifications than someone without as much social capital. And I will surely deal with far fewer emotional consequences than the people who were direct victims of the problematic person's bullying.
Unfortunately this is not a new phenomenon. And it is not particular to my or any small community. There are many systems in place that allow abuse of all kinds to flourish in our society. The current kerfuffle over the lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre against Prince Andrew is a perfect example. Here's the gist: in 2001 a teenager was sex-trafficked. Some years later, she sued the Chief Trafficker (Jeffrey Epstein), and in 2009 she settled for a paltry pile of money in exchange for her silence.
The other thing Virginia Giuffre signed away was her future ability to sue anyone who might have been a defendant in the case that settled. Fast forward to now, when that teenager (now grown-up human) sues Prince Andrew for sexually assaulting her, and Prince Andrew tries to have the case dismissed. And what is the heart of Prince Andrew's current argument to dismiss this case? That he could have been a defendant in that other case so now he can't be sued.
Just let that sink in a moment.
Prince Andrew is saying he could have been a defendant, along with Jeffrey Epstein, in a sex-trafficking-of-a-teenager case. So therefore he can't be sued by his victim now. Yuck. And the legal system supports this method of an abuser avoiding consequences for their actions. Just as abusers have long used their power and influence to insulate themselves from atonement.
It seemed like that tide was turning when Harvey Weinstein was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison for at least some of his crimes. Although he just appealed that decision, so who knows what will ultimately transpire. I hope more and more people will continue to come forward and confront their abusers. And I hope society will support them more and more completely.
What disturbs me the most about these abusers is their unshakable conviction that they have done nothing wrong. Just like the entirety of the 45th presidency. That guy still insists he didn't lose the election, Harvey Weinstein is confused by the "me too" movement, and Prince Andrew doesn't even remember meeting Virginia Giuffre. This is how we ended up with a bro-ey rapist named Brett Kavanaugh on the supreme court.
Fortunately, some folks continue to stand up and disrupt what's happening around them. Karen Karbo's book In Praise of Difficult Women includes 29 such examples. Unfortunately, the first one is J.K. Rowling, a notorious transphobe who uses her public platform in ways that hurt trans people and the cause of justice for women everywhere. This book was published before Twitter revealed the truth about J.K. Rowling, so I can't fault Karbo for failing to acknowledge what was unknown at the time. If it came out today, maybe she would include Amy Schneider instead. Now you know you can skip chapter one if you read it.
Despite it's disappointing start, there are 28 other well-known women who made their mark in their own way, including RBG, Margaret Cho, and Frida Kahlo. The thing Karbo doesn't come out and say directly is that every one of the women she features had some flavor of power or privilege that afforded them the opportunity to be difficult. Plenty of people are born into wealth or notoriety, or come by it later in life, but these people are noteworthy because they used their positioning to great effect.
One of my all-time favorite movies is Clue. There is a scene about half-way through when Colonel Mustard and Ms. Scarlet are paired-up and in-search of the mysterious murderer. They happen upon a secret passage, which could either lead them to the truth or right into danger. Colonel Mustard grabs a flashlight and says "What the hell, I'll go first, I've had a good life." So whoever you are, wherever you are, stand-up when you can. It might be your turn.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.