“Life has no remote….get up and change it yourself!” – Mark A. Cooper
We’ll start this off with my standard opening statement of how I am going to start writing regularly again which by now we both know is not likely true. My road to hell is well paved, but here’s to hoping it will fall into disrepair, right?
I’m here to talk about some words. Particularly three special ones that everyone knows, and that I hope everyone gets to feel.
Winter is coming. Doi. Were you thinking it would be something more sappy? The Starks are a bunch of Debbie Downers. They’re the “good guys” in the Song of Ice and Fire series, and when various Stark family members eat it, people lose their shit. The Starks aren’t especially better than any of the others; maybe we like them because we find everyone else in Westeros so completely distasteful.
For who knows how many generations, the Stark family motto has more or less been “Hey guys, it’s going to be shitty soon, and it’s going to stay shitty for a long time” It’s the battle cry of the dour ant, staring disapprovingly at the grasshoppers. I suppose the idea is “be prepared for the worst” which I guess is decent advice, but just once, I’d like to hear it said “Winter is coming…so tonight let’s fucking party!”
Those aren’t really the words I want to talk about though. (I’ve been pretty out of sorts lately) We all know what the three most important words are, but there are some other trios that are stuck in my brain waiting to be coughed out like so much literary phlegm, so I’m going to go with some of them and come back around to the important ones at the end.
How are you? – A question that is so often asked with no intent behind it. The herald of small talk. The obligatory buffer before delivery of bad news. These three words have been repeated mindlessly to a point where by and large we are emotionally calloused to them and give rote, automated responses. These ones have been on my mind a few weeks now. I’m a pretty insulated person. With the weird exception of this blog, I am not really one given to talking much about what’s going on with my insides. I’m trying to correct this, both here in this weird pseudo-anonymous capacity, as well as in my real life.
We each have our own individual struggles. Certainly in my case and I’m guessing a lot of others, we don’t advertise these things. I have a long history of not talking to people about the things that bother me, and typically only do so when I am at a breaking point. That’s not really a healthy way to be, but this is not the point I’m making. There’s a lot of power in this question. Asking it with intent is a gesture of caring and investment in someone, and they feel it. Being asked that question with intent behind it makes me feel cared about. This is a powerful feeling, and one that I feel as a culture we’ve become too stingy with. Asking someone how they are is a genuine expression of interest in a person. It’s so simple, but I find that it doesn’t really happen often. I am certainly guilty of this, which has lead to me trying to get better about it. Questions are powerful learning tools, and they let others know that we want to learn about them. When was the last time you asked a friend how they were with the express intent of learning that? We get lost in the other subjects we talk about, and forget to touch on the things that are why we’re talking to them about anything at all.
I love you – Thought these were going to be the ones at the end, huh? These words are super important too, and not to be thrown around lightly. Even to the people who hear it most, it is a special comfort that very few people can provide them. I’m not going to go into the whole “tell people you love them because you never know if they’re going to be hit by an asteroid covered in bees” I think that’s tired and encourages overuse. These three are capable of a lot of magic. They can inspire euphoric joy, and they can trigger a raging bile duct. Be careful about who you give these to, but the people who deserve it should know. Like being asked how we are, being told that we are loved has effects that tend to empower us. Moreover, telling someone that you love them means something for you. As quoted from the Tao Te Ching, “being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Don’t believe that? Ask yourself what you wouldn’t do for your kid. Love makes the world go around. It’s the greatest power humanity will ever know, and it is our responsibility to cherish it, celebrate it, spread it, and keep it pure.
Everything is okay – This set is one of the more difficult ones for me. I suffer from depression and mania. I keep both of them in line with medicines and cognitive therapies, but that means they are held in check, not that they are conquered. I grew up in a violent and abusive house. Throughout my adolescence and adulthood, I have been an unwitting participant to multiple abuse patterns and relationships. I’ve developed abandonment issues that plague me constantly. I’m not the best at identifying these abuse patterns, and I stick through them waaaaay longer than I should, and no one should stay a second past the point where they realize the circle that they’re in. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not one especially given to talking about my problems, and I’m trying to get better about it. It is not easy. I’m the guy who fixes things. I pride myself on this. This unfortunately leads me to conceal anything that suggests I am in any way broken. I have worked extremely hard to build the confidence that I have, and it frightens me how easily that can be shaken some times. How much effort it took to convince myself legitimately that I have value, and how little it takes to make me doubt it. It’s not fun trying to sort this stuff out. My issues have issues.
A couple of months ago, my tendency towards secrecy lead me to a series of poor choices, the after-effects of which would have been catastrophic, were it not for the grace of the company I keep. I am trying to use my support network more, which flies in the face of a lot of my history. Earlier today I was unraveling a bit, and I reached out to someone. Vitriol had taken over and she was at a loss as to how to calm the maelstrom I had worked myself into. She reminded me of any number of accomplishments of mine to remind me that there were positive things I could focus on. I took apart every single one of her statements to prove how it was false. Definitely leaning into the curve, and I should know better. I spent a lot of time and energy making sure to clarify that good things that came of my efforts were all bullshit.
I know that she’s in the right. It’s really hard to see clearly through the rage. Her trying to bring me back to reason ultimately got me more angry at myself. I took all of those things and wondered how I could let myself get to such a point. My anger kept feeding itself until it was ready to catalyze into action. Everything is only okay as you let it be. I am not okay, but her insistence on my good works eventually broke me hours after we stopped talking; and it lead me to what are truly the three most important words in this or any other language.
Get to work – After taking careful action to destroy the good image of me she was trying to create, all I was left with was a list of things that I absolutely hate about myself. I felt a soul crushing loneliness as I pondered the enormity before me, and awareness of that loneliness reminded me that there was no help coming, not now, and not ever. The only way out is through, and the only one capable of doing it is me. Teeth grit, hands clenching, heart thrumming and vision rimmed in red, I took stock of all of this and put plans into motion to fix them. To prove myself wrong. Anger inspires me to action better than anything else I have tried. Anger is what keeps me hammering at myself, trying to beat myself into something I can fully love. It’s a dirty burning fuel, but the whole “love yourself enough to do (blank)” approach has never worked with me. My only satisfactions come from triumph over the things I hate. I recognize that there is something patently unhealthy about this, but the ends justify the means.
Why are these words the most important? Because they are the closest to action, and action is the most powerful language there is. As Benjamin Disraeli stated, “action may not always bring about happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” We all have things that are eating us alive, that are preventing us from being who we are meant to be. What are you doing about them? Get to work.