What would you do?
Category Archives: Social Rules
Most people don’t have someone to be their inner voice, someone who will tell them unflinchingly what they might not want to hear. We’ve all learned the horror of making the mistake of saying what needs to be said. Very few of us embrace and welcome loving criticism. Because most of us have blind spots that grow over time. Love, X
Truth Is A Verb
Truth Is A Verb
A recent viral video of a local arrest demonstrates what I’ve said a million times: people are going to react to whatever they think happened. I’ve been in the middle of some highly questionable police activity. Having known several police officers, I had the luxury of hearing some of the craziness that goes on behind bureaucracy and authority. This case is much more complicated than people seem to care about. Everyone loves jumping in with opinions, even though context and background are vital to understanding what’s going on. But, of course, people aren’t going to take the time to withhold judgment until they understand the subtleties at play. This is true about personal goings-on and doubly true for things happening in the world around them. Generally speaking, the public as a whole is wildly misinformed, and little can change that. During my normal days, I dart around and listen to people give opinions that reflect a huge disparity in their grasp of detail, whether it’s science, economics, or politics. It’s a reflection of strawman arguments. I listen as people with no expertise or knowledge in a particular field make sweeping statements far beyond their level of understanding.
As for the recent viral story involving the police, I took a bit of time and looked closely at the context. I was not surprised to see that people were dubiously questioning what happened. Most of them were doing so from a position of ignorance. The sound bite version had infected them with the mistaken idea that they understand what happened. Beyond that? They are not interested to know. That’s just human nature. We have more information than ever at our disposal, but our nature is one of superficial comprehension.
And so, they react to their misinterpretation, much like they did years ago when the woman burned herself badly with the cup of McDonald’s coffee. I mention that example because, to this day, people still talk from ignorance about her allegedly ridiculous lawsuit. History proved that her story was complex and that MdDonald’s had been negligent on multiple counts. But that’s not what people remember because the initial media frenzy crowded out the facts and context.
All of us were confused back in the day when the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. It took years for history to come forth with a much more telling recount of the misconduct of Bill Clinton. His pattern of sexually inappropriate conduct as a government employee turned out to be as wild as we imagined. But most of us were crowded into camps of defensiveness or accusation. The facts did little to change our initial point of view. Out of ignorance, I thought it was a case of political witchery. Of course, it turned out to be the case that Bill Clinton consistently behaved inappropriately in his positions of power. Several women were left with the consequences of dealing with the fallout.
A few years ago, most watched as the Duggar mess unfolded. Power and politics wrecked the possibility of a cut-and-dry outcome. What was uncovered in the long term unquestionably put to rest the idea that there was no fire behind the smoke.
There is police misconduct everywhere. That’s going to be the case because people find ways to misbehave regardless of their occupation. In the viral case over the last few days, people acted in good faith and in accordance with policies put in place to protect juveniles. It’s unfortunate to see the public go haywire with a misinterpretation. That’s the power of video in a nutshell. A strawman interpretation of what motivated the police to arrest someone infecting the public and few took the time to look into the ‘why’ of it all.
Time will reveal the details and subtleties. But most people won’t remember those. They’ll keep their inconsistencies in their head to mostly justify whatever conclusion or prejudice they have against the police or people in general.
As for the particular incident that prompted this post? I’m glad that we have school resource officers. Had they existed when I was in school, both of my parents would have been incarcerated multiple times, and I certainly would not have been allowed to live with them. That’s the plain truth. If the initial statements made by the person who put the chain of events in motion were not true, that’s a buttress to my argument about the power of words and accusation. Be cautious in your allegations; they can ruin people. And if they were true? It is a reflection of what goes on behind closed doors at so many homes all across the country. I’m making no hard stand regarding the ‘truth’ of the allegations precisely because we might never know in a meaningful way. Do I feel like people in authority behaved in good faith? Hell yes. And that’s weird for a liberal like me to say. There are countless examples of police misconduct everywhere. I don’t see it in this case.
I made the mistake of diving into the people involved. By way of confession, the booking photo of the person in question made me cringe. I’m as guilty as anyone for jumping to conclusions and more so in this case. I trust my instincts, though they are sometimes wrong.
I’d just like everyone to remember that we don’t really KNOW. And especially when we don’t have access to all the information. It would be nice if we lived in a society wherein laws and protection were applied equally to everyone. It’s obvious that we don’t live in that world. If people are involved, whether it’s the police or private citizens, it’s always going to be messy and full of unseen agendas, resources, and conflict. That’s part of who we are.
Fire Brings Fire
Let’s stop bashing each other about our religions and spirituality. Most of us have them because they define us in an invisible way. Yes, each of us believe some things that sound crazy to other people. I say that with respect, even though at times I admit that I can’t help but laugh at some of the things we believe. I dislike religions that inspire prejudice or marginalize women from being leaders. I understand that many people find comfort in religions that seem to go against my previous comment. Most of all, I love belief that demands the golden rule and reciprocity in all things. Spirituality is personal. Most of us set aside the particulars that we don’t agree with. And in the end, that’s all that should matter. A belief that pushes us towards being a better person and a better human to those around us. Though most people disagree with me, the particular creator we hold in our heart is secondary. Because if we are mistreating ourselves and other people, we’ve already violated the main principle that I think our maker would want us to follow. And if we don’t believe in a creator, I can’t imagine any one objecting to the ideal of acting as if we’re here with purpose. We can argue and bicker like all of our ancestors have done. The bickering is a distraction. Loving people act with love. We might grit our teeth at others in the process. The goal remains the same. Love, X
Personal Post, So Be Advised
I’m the opposite of private across the board. I have a blog and a TikTok. I also write things for others because I don’t know how to turn off the spigot that runs in my mind.
One of the things that drive me bonkers is the misconception that people have about me. No one can call me a hypocrite because I always say it first. Whether it was having an emotional affair while I was married, having herpes, or admitting how susceptible I am to the alcoholism problem that infects many in my family. As you can see, I don’t keep those things private. A couple of people have been shocked that they’ve seen me with a cigarette. It’s about the stupidest thing for me to do, even though I foolishly use it as a substitute for anxiety treatments. I’d rather people know who I am, even if those things are hard to say openly.
I try to be as transparent as possible. A few months ago, I realized how idiotic I was being by getting away from that. Secrets infect a person worse than a virus. Because you can’t be open and yourself if you’re protecting a version of yourself.
But one of the vortexes I got stuck in is the privacy versus secrecy issue that plagues many lives and relationships. If you have a partner, don’t keep things in your life or on your phone that would be hurtful to the people you love. That it’s wrong to do or say anything that you wouldn’t want your partner ever to see or hear literally goes without saying. If you’ve gotten away from that? It’s never too late to wake up and be grateful that you found someone who loves you.
It’s important not to get weighed down by your past because everyone can renew at any point in their life. It doesn’t erase the past. I’m still accountable for those mistakes.
Recently, I was accused of being controlling. If wanting the best for someone is controlling, I’m definitely guilty. I worked hard to be the person I should be. At the same time, history and imagery beyond my control infected my head. So, I have to pay for my mistakes again.
I slept about an hour last night. I can do quite well on five a night. Because of that, I let my coworkers down by calling in this morning and failing to go to work. I love my job for many reasons and don’t want to lose it. It’s been a sustaining thread in my life for 18 years.
I’m 56. All I want is to be loved and have someone in my corner. We can both know each other’s demons, shake our heads at our idiocy, and move on. If you go to my TikTok and read through the innumerable videos I’ve made, you will get the idea that I do have a grasp of what makes people happy with themselves and their relationships. That ideal infects me. I’ve also helped several people in a counseling group. I tell them what I did wrong openly and share all the things I’ve learned in therapy. Obviously, I still don’t practice them well. Anyone who knows me can see it. At some point soon, I’m going to give Al-Anon a try because I need it.
But above and behind all this? Secrecy is the worst. And now, you’ve learned more things about me that you wouldn’t expect to see on social media.
I included a picture of me that Erika took before I performed the marriage of my deceased wife’s niece. It was one of the happiest days I’ve had in my life, even though one moment filled my eyes with tears and reminded me of the people I’ve lost. I had people I loved around me on Saturday. Trusting me to fumble performing the wedding, but also sharing their special day with me.
The Exclusion Observation
I know this one is obvious.
I can’t tell you how often I hear about other people engaging in it.
I’ve known for most of my adult life how damaging this can be to people. Even if they don’t say so. They are waiting for you to understand. Most people might not until they’ve experienced it themselves. Or until someone they love communicates the hurt it engenders.
Healthcare Proxy / Advanced Directive
Advanced Directive / Health Care Proxy
I finally updated my healthcare proxy.
I’ve noticed that most of the people around me don’t have one. An advanced directive isn’t the same thing as a healthcare proxy. If you’re going to do one or the other, I recommend a proxy because it entrusts your decisions to someone you designate to make decisions for you. You can do an Advanced Directive if you’d like to stipulate exactly what medical care you prefer. Otherwise, you can trust your named person to do it for you. Just don’t entrust this sort of thing with your brother-in-law Bob.
Because I’m not into privacy, Erika is my primary, and my favorite cousin is the alternate. I like to joke and imagine the doctors huddled in my ICU room. “So, what does X want to be done?” Either Lynette or Erika will look them in the eye and say, “He was adamant that he wanted no life-sustaining artifices, but he insisted on a coffee colonic each morning at 4 a.m. Oh! And to be defibrillated in the nether regions twice a day. Set the phaser on maximum, please.”
I imagine everyone knows my general wishes: I don’t mind CPR once or twice if it results in a positive life afterward. I never want to be airlifted; whatever happens, I want it to happen near my home and life. I don’t want to be sustained for any period other than briefly. And if I need to be defibrillated in the nether regions just for amusement, please go for it. It’s exactly what I’d want you all to tell the doctors if only to see their reaction.
It’s been quite a while since my emergency surgery. I’ll never forget that Monday afternoon after work. And I often think about the calm day when the plane crashed at my residence. I don’t think I imagined such a calamity when I skipped work that day and drank my cup of morning coffee. Days like that can and will happen to everyone. Unless you’re certain immortality is at your disposal, it’s wise to make sure you have someone designated. And if you’re married? Name someone for you both, just in the unlikely case that you’re both incapacitated.
Just to give you a little push, most people don’t know that millions of us have inactive aneurysms. Most never cause problems. They can rupture or cause symptoms at any time. I’m not telling you that to make you cringe. I’m giving that example to demonstrate that the universe has a quiver of surprises for us. We are biological machines filled with opportunities to tap on our shoulders.
If anyone reading this doesn’t have a healthcare proxy, they aren’t complicated and only require the signature of two witnesses. I can direct you to where to make one – or I can email you a blank form you can fill out.
I hope all of you add this to your list of “musts.” Otherwise, when the unimaginable happens, your friends and loved ones will scramble to figure out a way to make these decisions for you.
Not related, this morning just before 7 a.m., as I watched a visitor valiantly attempt to rouse a friend at a nearby apartment, I looked up above the horizon to the west to see a long, streaking shooting star blaze into the atmosphere. It was singular and probably high into the sky. But it streaked for a couple of seconds as it obliquely burned into visibility. That meteorite is us. I hope your time here is long and joyful. Don’t forget to take a few moments and add my recommendation to your to-do list. It’ll help your circle in the event you need it.
(PS I didn’t mention a Living Will, which is also a great resource.)
In Sickness and Health (A Caveat)
“In sickness and health” is a beautiful standard. It reminds us that life isn’t easy.
I’ll leave it to someone whose opinion I cherish to briefly sum up one of the caveats that eluded me: “A cancer diagnosis falls under “in sickness and in health.” Choosing obesity does not.”
It’s also true for alcoholism or anything that is behavior-driven. Overcoming any of these problems is a lot of work. Of course it is!
This doesn’t imply that some people don’t have physical or emotional struggles that make it harder. I’m not discussing the outliers. I’m talking about most of us, the ones who fall into drinking and slowly drive our loved ones mad with concern and consequences. Or those who gain weight and instead of honestly addressing the issue, learn to accommodate the effects of their choices. Their partners might be the most loving people in the world. They might encourage, they might support, and they might also quietly watch the person they love lose sight of their health. But the partner with the behavioral issue is making the decision for both partners.
I’m reluctant to talk about weight for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it impacted me personally, both as the person guilty of it and then the person attempting to get my partner to see that the consequences of choosing to let it get worse were damaging our quality of life on multiple levels. The other thing that makes me hesitant is that we have such a huge taboo against openly and honestly talking about weight. It’s a global problem.
Love is a feeling. It is also action. And reciprocal and mutual action when it affects your partner. When the consequences of your choices rob both of you of the enjoyment of life and each other, it’s no shame for your partner to ask you to do something different. They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t love you.
I only equate alcoholism and obesity because of the complexities of both behaviors. They both require a realization on the part of the person affected by them. And both bring consequences to both partners attempting to lead a good, healthy life.
It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about either one. And if anger results from either conversation, you have a bigger problem. But the anger also acknowledges the severity of the underlying conversation.