Tag Archives: pleasing people

Tolerance

I recently read a brilliant essay on tolerance that clarified for me why I haven’t always experienced successful outcomes while practicing it! Here’s a quote to think about from that article:

“[Tolerance] is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.” –Yonatan Zunger, ‘Tolerance is not a Moral Precept’

I’ve found that one of the many unpleasant effects of pleasing people, trying hard, being compliant and demonstrating unfailing compassion and kindness is that it’s stunted my emotional growth. It’s made me weak, naïve and dependent. It’s taught me to be powerless.

At this point in my life I’m making different choices, and as I do that I’m losing my fuzzy-headed, goody-two-shoes, sweet maiden aspect and becoming much clearer about who I am and what I believe in.

I’m not the only one, either. My second-hand exposure to social media through my partner, as well as my own reading of blogs, articles and essays, demonstrates loud and clear that many of us are in the process of refocusing our beliefs and values. Just yesterday I read an article about the devastating impact of the presidential election on close relationships and social media communities, as well as the way it’s opened up new connections.

As I listen, watch, read, write and think about it all, I return, again and again, to the conclusion  that we’re all dealing with the same underlying ideas and issues. I know there’s a lot of heated and poisonous ideology out there about race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender politics, religion, and even what we eat, but underneath all that distracting noise are the same issues of tolerance and intolerance, power and identity, and fear.

I’ve written previously about reciprocity. When I read Zunger’s blog, I immediately understood why my practice of tolerance has had, in some cases, quite devastating results. Once again, I was extending something I wasn’t receiving in return. Having been well trained (and slightly dim) it didn’t occur to me before that it’s not my responsibility to meet intolerance and disregard for my own boundaries with continuing tolerance. I’ve clung to the dangerous belief that if I just model and demonstrate well, the other party or parties will get it, and want to live in a more peaceful and effective way (my way, of course!)

After all, I don’t want to stoop to their level!

Ick.

This is a pretty effective set of shackles. Like many women, I’ve accepted them meekly for most of my life.

I’m bored with that now. It’s never worked well. It’s always left me terribly and painfully vulnerable. Turn the other cheek sounds like a lovely ideal, but in practice it sucks. In my study of combatives, I’ve found another option: Go in peace, but if a predator attacks you, be so explosively aggressive that you become the predator and they become the prey. Take them out of commission as fast and effectively as possible and get away from them. Permanently.

I know, I know. Unattractive. Not nice. Being part of the problem rather than the solution. Violence solves nothing.

That’s all fine, if it works for you.

It hasn’t worked for me. I’m not sure why it’s unattractive and wrong to defend myself (or others), except, of course, from the predator’s point of view.

I don’t care what the predator thinks. Predators have to take their lumps, just like the rest of us.

It seems these days going in peace means having no opinions, asking no questions, voicing no disagreement, stating no beliefs and citing no personal experience. There’s sure to be someone who will step in and try to shut us down with violence, abuse and threats if we speak up.

I love the idea of tolerance as a peace treaty. It gives me everything I need. It accommodates my intention to seek and support connection. It allows me to continue to be completely disinterested in someone’s religion, sexual preference, gender experience, physical anatomy, race, ethnicity, diet or reproductive choices as a criterion for judgement. Tolerance as a peace treaty leaves ample room for the things I do care about—authenticity, compassion, power with rather than power over, the desire to connect. It’s a peace treaty I can honor whole-heartedly.

Right up until someone tells me to shut up and sit down, make myself small, stop asking questions. Right up until someone tells me what to believe, what spiritual framework to use, what to think, what agenda to accept, what to do with my body and what my boundaries should be. Right up until I feel uncomfortable, in fact. Then the peace treaty is broken, and I give myself permission to exit, quietly if allowed and like a fighting tigress if hindered.

Tolerance is not an expression of weakness. It’s not permission to use and abuse. It’s not an agreement to abdicate self-defense. It’s not a suicide pact.

Nobody is entitled to tolerance.

Tolerance is a gift that must be both given and received. Let’s be worthy of it.

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Reciprocity 3: Reality Check

When I began this blog, I made a deal with myself to stop pleasing people. http://ourdailycrime.com/letter-of-resignation/   I hope you don’t think this decision led to happily ever after. Aside from a couple of notable exceptions, I’m not making friends and influencing people among my nearest and dearest. Still, I’m determined to grow and heal, whether it pleases others or not.

Lately, though, I’m getting bored with myself. I’m bored with my one-dimensional, civilized blogging. I’m bored with living up to the most mealy-mouthed, simpering word in the English language: Nice. I’m tired of hiding my rage, my passion and myself. This blog lacks vitality. It’s too fucking nice. It’s naïve, in the way women who try too hard are naïve. Women like me.

I can do much more than nice.

So, here’s this week’s post.

Reciprocity is a fine, fancy-sounding concept, but it’s not much use in the real world. The real world is all about Fuck You.

In the real world, men own women; parents own children; addictions, technology and the media own all of us and the biggest narcissists and bullies run the world. The real world runs on the power to control other people. This is because most people can’t control themselves, so naturally they take it out on everyone else. If we’re standing too close, it doesn’t matter who we are. Don’t kid yourself. Child, parent, lover, spouse, oldest and most loyal friend—it all counts for nothing and reciprocity is NOT in the equation.

If you don’t believe this, just look at the way we treat our home, poor old weary Mother Earth. Everything we need is here. Everything is provided. What do we do? Take a crap on her and poison her and then complain because she doesn’t give us enough.

Gratitude? Dream on. Thankfulness? You must be kidding.

Reciprocity, connection, boundaries—sure, sure. But in the real world, if we rise from our sweet-smelling bed every day, brush our teeth with milk and honey, say a cheerful good morning and work as hard as we can at loving and supporting others with the hope we’ll get it back, we’re not very bright. You know what we’ll get back at the end of the day from most people?

Fuck You, that’s what.

Because we’re human. We’re not inexhaustible. We want to be loved, too. And eventually we’ll piss someone off. We’ll say the wrong thing, or we’ll be wearing the wrong color shirt, or (most unforgiveable of all) we’ll forget for a moment that we are not the priority.  That’s when it happens.

An explosion.

Unforgettable words.

A scene.

A thrown dish.

A fat lip.

Fuck You.

And it’ll be our fault, because they haven’t had their coffee yet, or they’re hung over, or they hate the job they’re about to go to, or they didn’t get laid last night, or we’re failing our job to make their world a better place. We disappoint, we have a boundary, we say no, we dare to ask for something, we fail to comply. We make them crazy and we make them treat us like a piece of shit. As far as they’re concerned, we can take our love and shove it up our ass.

And if we’re stupid enough to persist in trying to understand, trying to placate or sympathize with a bad mood or a hard experience, trying to alleviate their pain, then we really will deserve what we get, which will be another

Fuck You.

AND if we think our willingness to forgive and repair will be reciprocated by theirs, if we think taking responsibility for whatever we did wrong (even though we’re clueless about what it was) will cause them to do the same, if we excuse and minimize and tell ourselves they didn’t (couldn’t) mean what they said, then we deserve every name, every accusation, every curse and every blow we take, because we’re stupid, we’re pathetic, we’re in denial and people like that get destroyed.

What is it about “fuck you” we’re failing to understand?

But don’t listen to me, sisters. Go ahead, spread that love around. If you keep demonstrating reciprocity and everything else you want, they’ll get it. They’ll love and value themselves the way you do. They’ll love and value you and your relationship. You’ll be able to make peace, keep it glued together, avoid further catastrophe if you try hard enough.

Sure you will. Good fucking luck with that.

Women like me are in a very small cage made out of niceness. We’re constitutionally unable to do anything but be nice and try harder. We’ve been VERY well trained. We won’t make a scene. We’ll be an adult. We’ll forgive anything. We’ll never take our pain out on someone else, because we don’t want to make someone else feel the anguish we feel. We conspire to prioritize the needs of others. We don’t talk about our own despair and isolation. We don’t blame anyone outside themselves for our difficulties, we just soldier on as well as we can, feeling guilty about our stress and failure and meekly accepting blame for everyone else’s shit and if, one day, we are hurt or frustrated beyond bearing and we DO explode, well, then there’s outrage and injury! Then there are trembling lips and tears! It’s for everyone else to put a needle in their arm, or powder up their nose, or soak their lives in alcohol. It’s everyone else’s right to melt down, lose control, self-destruct, say hateful things and generally behave like 3-year-olds. Women like me are for blaming, forgiving, cleaning up the mess and taking responsibility. We are NOT recipients of forgiveness.

Reciprocity, my ass.

Yeah, reciprocity is great, if you can get it. So’s a good fuck, a great job, a loyal friend, a new Subaru and a vacation in the Bahamas. In the meantime, wake up and live in the real world. Take your finger out, pull up your socks and move on. Live or don’t live. Love or don’t love. Look for reciprocity.  It’s out there.  Some people are adult enough to participate in it.  Never let it go if you find it.  But prepare for

Fuck You.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Boundaries I: Strawberry Jam

Since I began this blog I’ve wanted to write about boundaries, not only because I myself am trying to develop better ones, but also because it seems to me boundaries are a large part of what’s broken in our culture. In our cultures.

We’re all aware of headlines from all over the world about human rights, ethnic and racial struggle, politics, sexual identity, religion and war. It seems to me boundaries are a core piece in each headline; an enormously complex piece of human function and dysfunction. How do we define, understand and effectively manage boundaries—both our own and those of others? How do we manage people who consistently violate boundaries?

Trying to organize my thoughts about this is like trying to herd cats. That being said, I can choose a starting point, so I’m going to start there and see if the subject organizes itself as I write and, hopefully, discuss with you.

I approach most subjects with a definition and a curiosity about what others are saying about it. A Google search for “boundary” tells me it’s a “dividing line.”

I’ve read two blogs recently about boundaries. One is written from an emotional intelligence perspective and one is about human rights, kind of a sidewise look at boundaries through the idea of respect. Both have contributed to my mental soup on this subject.

http://www.carmineleo.com/blog/whats-up-with-boundaries-a-quick-note

http://erscandle.blogspot.com/2016/07/yielding.html

My experience is that any piece of human function or dysfunction begins with myself. Self-reflection and self-inquiry are powerful tools for me, even though I occasionally wince at what I find!

So, let’s play a game. Open your refrigerator, or your pantry, or your cupboard. Look at a shelf where you keep food. Everything is in a container. The container around the food is a boundary. If none of that food had boundaries around it—well, that would just be a mess.

As we start thinking about boundaries from ourselves outward, let’s take a jar of strawberry jam. It’s a glass jar with a screw top lid and it’s clearly labeled strawberry jam. Effective boundaries, it seems to me, begin with a correct identification of what’s being contained. We have to know who we are before we can create healthy boundaries, because our boundaries won’t look like someone else’s. They’re not one size fits all. You can’t keep strawberry jam in an eggshell. You don’t want raw eggs in a jar labeled strawberry jam. A can with the label torn off could still be food, but it’s hard to use it effectively.

Mislabeling happens in two directions. There are those externally who tell us who we will, should or must be (or who we will, should or must NOT be), and there are our own internal expectations of who we are and what we need. If something goes wrong right here, at the first step of boundary work, we’ve got problems.

This takes us directly back to several dynamics I’ve blogged about—expectations, stories, saying yes and no, and pleasing people among them. My experience in my own western middle class culture has been painful pressure to be who I’m expected to be, not who I really am. If this can happen to me, a straight, white, average-looking, average-sized, able-bodied, unambiguous female, then I know there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who are being systematically emotionally and spiritually maimed in ways I can’t begin to fathom.

This opposition to knowing and being ourselves is everywhere. Capitalism is based on the idea that you’re not okay as you are, but you will be if you buy…whatever it is.

So, here’s the daily crime part for me. I’m strawberry jam. I’m not grape jelly, even though it’s more valuable. I’m not blackberry jam, even though it’s more attractive. I’m not raspberry jam, even though it’s more popular. Go ahead, glue a label on me that says “currant jelly.” I’m still going to be strawberry jam, and my true boundaries are a glass jar with a screw top lid and a label that says strawberry jam.

As cruel as it is, the external pressure we feel to be other than we are is not the most damaging thing. The most damaging piece is what we do internally to ourselves. I can spend my whole life with my fingers in my ears and my eyes squinched shut saying I’m peanut butter, but I’ll always be strawberry jam. Other people will know it. I’ll know it. Nothing will ever work for me because I’m in the world trying to be something I’m not. I won’t find my people. I won’t find my place. I won’t figure out and make my contribution. I won’t have effective boundaries. I won’t be happy.

Not only that, but my inability to manage and maintain effective boundaries affects everyone around me. If my jar is cracked or broken, strawberry jam is going to ooze out onto the shelf. It’ll make a mess. It’ll attract pests and predators. It’ll be wasted and it will impoverish the peanut butter, the toast, the butter and whatever else might have connected with me as strawberry jam.

In order to have healthy boundaries we have to know what we need. In order to know what we need we have to know who we are. Finding out who we are can be a terrifying prospect, especially if we’re captive to what other people, media, our culture, and most of all ourselves tell us we MUST be in order to get loved and find happiness, meaning and purpose.

I have made up my mind I will build better boundaries. I will figure this out. If anybody out there will walk beside me, I’ll be very pleased. I know I’m not the only one struggling with this. In fact, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have trouble with some piece of it.

My starting point is right here, with myself. I’m strawberry jam and my boundaries are a glass jar and a screw top lid. My label says strawberry jam. I’ve no interest in forcing, persuading or coercing anyone else to be strawberry jam. I just know what I am. It might be that strawberry jam is outlawed, shunned, shamed, beheaded, tortured, raped, imprisoned, damned to Hell, unsaved, unenlightened, unlovable, unwanted, unworthy or lined up against a stone wall and shot under a hot sun. I’ll still be strawberry jam. I’m not confused and I’m not going to feel ashamed about it.

Peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich, anyone?

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted