love is a given

What do you deserve?

Who is going to give it to you?

I grew up with those questions asked along materialistic lines. Lately, I’ve been asking myself those questions as they pertain to relationships.

Personally, I’ve experienced a lot of trauma in the form of relationships. The people who claim to care the most about me have, historically, been the most dangerous people in my life. At a certain point, something so traumatic happened to me that I chose to push the reset button on my life.

Since then, I have made dramatic changes and blossomed into a much happier version of myself. I have a lot to appreciate.

Many, many moons ago, I began asking myself what I deserved, because I felt so resentful. Resentment is often the result of not getting what feels one deserves. And, I was pretty justified in feeling resentment, but I didn’t want that feeling to define my existence.

Feeling a way that makes sense, given what you’ve been through, and choosing to not prioritize feeling that way, anymore, is a paradigm shift. And, paradigm shifts often feel painful and/or destabilizing. Because they are.

So many of us just become what we were programmed to be by the choices of others. If I look at what I was programmed to be, I see two, distinct potentials. I was programmed to be stereotypically successful in a capitalistic society. Meaning, I should be a highly paid professional right now. I had the grades and aptitude for it. But, I knew that wouldn’t make me happy. I was much more interested in justice and humanity than I was in power and control.

The other thing I was programmed to be is… broken. I was programmed to always put others first, no matter how much they abused me. I was programmed to feel ashamed of myself. I was programmed to follow the rules, even when they hurt me and others. I was programmed to accept much less while giving much more.

I was programmed for defeat.

So, how was I going to be successful and defeated? I wasn’t, unless I underwent a serious bout of narcissism. You have to develop a personality disorder to become successful materially while being broken emotionally.

Instead, I chose to live as human a life as possible. I didn’t know what I was doing, because I wasn’t raised around or by people who prioritized their humanity. But, I just kept moving in the direction that felt true for me.

I did a pretty decent job considering I didn’t know how to have healthy relationships. And, at the foundation of all human dignity is healthy relationship. Relationship with others, relationship with self, relationship with the natural world.

When I pushed the reset button on my life, I began to focus upon relationships. As a result, I gained a lot of clarity around how dysfunctional most of the people in my life were, how dysfunctional I was. Clearing up that dysfunction has been the primary focus of the past decade of my life.

I’m doing a pretty decent job considering there are so many dysfunctional people to choose from.

Since I’m highly analytical, I’ve been reading about and watching non-dysfunctional people. I’ve been studying how non-dysfunctional people make decisions and choose relationships. I’ve been understanding dysfunction in a new way. I’ve been accepting that it’s truly challenging to be non-dysfunctional in a dysfunctional society.

But, it’s definitely possible.

The more I grappled with dysfunction, the more I grappled with trauma. The more I grappled with trauma, the more I grappled with empathy. The more I grappled with empathy, the more I grappled with compassion. The more I grappled with compassion, the more I grappled with fear. The more I grappled with fear, the more I grappled with my understanding of love.

I realized that we, as a modern society, understand very little about love.

I have moved from focusing upon dysfunction and healing to focusing upon embodying love. What does that look like? When we say we love someone, what do we really mean?

I have found that the love of someone living from a traumatized mentality means very little, indeed. But the love of someone who embodies Self-love means just as little. That’s the paradox of love.

Love isn’t the thing. Love is the EVERYthing.

I think once we understand that, we start to realize that using love as an excuse to hold on when we need to let go is a lie. That’s not love. Love just is. Love has no parameters or expectations, it simply exists.

Because of that, love does not end.

Now, when I ask myself what I deserve, I think about love. “Is this the most loving version of this relationship?” If not, what do I want to do?

“Is this the most loving version of this moment?” If not, what do I want to do?

I have accepted that love doesn’t need to be given. It simply exists. So, when I ask myself what I deserve… it’s love. And, when I ask myself who is going to give it to me… it’s me. And, it’s life. And, no one needs to give it to me because it’s a given. What I’ve come to realize is that when I think I’m grappling with love, I’m really just grappling with the barriers to love.

And, sometimes, those barriers look like people. And, I choose not to grapple with people I love, anymore. If we cannot love without conflict or barriers, let us love outside of conflict and barriers.

I’ve accepted that that sometimes feels like a lack of love to the other person. But, truth is not reliant upon feelings. That’s part of the beauty of everything true.

suffer the children

A culture that doesn’t recognize children as part of the collective is a culture prepared for its own demise.

In the United States, we still view children as property. They are like furniture: you can do with them what you like, including removing them from one family and giving them to another, at will. Their feelings don’t matter much and what’s in their best interests is only significant from an adult’s perspective.

There have always been adults in the USA who rallied against this domination and oppression mentality. But, since most of them do so from a distorted understanding of childhood, themselves, they often produce just as many problems and issues to overcome as their counterparts.

This is because viewing children as “other” is always detrimental.

Children are not fully-grown humans, but they are humans. And, their needs are the same needs of fully-grown humans: food, water, shelter, care, fun. These are the needs of every, single human on Earth, and some of the grown humans are constantly devising new ways to deprive other grown humans of those needs. And, when the grown humans are denied, so are the still-growing humans.

That’s how it works. And, most of us know this. It’s astounding how many fully-grown humans say they are working for the betterment of the situations of other humans. There are many, many non-profit organizations set up to offset the harm of for-profit organizations. But, like anything set up to counter a thing, they present the same harms.

Because the problem isn’t in the answer, the problem is in the question.

We are constantly asking: How can we make this better? And, the answers we devise are varied and multiple and, once implemented, bring more harm than good.

We see this over and over and over, but we don’t stop asking that question. The question leads us astray time and time, again, but instead of putting down the question, we dig in deeper.

This is the behavior of fully-grown humans who never experienced an appropriately human childhood. It’s tantrum behavior. It’s immature and irrational behavior. It’s reactionary.

But, if your childhood was spent reacting to the whims of the adults around you instead of forming thoughts about your life and experimenting with and discussing those thoughts with the children and adults around you, all you know and habituate are patterns of reaction. You don’t quite learn the difference between responding and reacting. You see them as the same thing, both valid.

Earlier today, I read that people cannot think in solitude. I would have laughed if the author hadn’t been so disturbingly earnest. The article was about the importance of schools, the necessity of schools.

But, schools have never been a necessity. Schools were derived as tools of indoctrination, and indoctrination promotes reaction not response.

Schools are not necessary, even in so-called advanced civilizations, because they don’t provide a single, human need… in a well-formed society. In a well-formed society, everyone’s needs are met: they have nutritious food and clean water, they have comfortable shelter from the elements, there are humor and games, and affection is the norm. In a well-formed society, this is all a given, not something to be earned, because well-formed societies recognize that human needs are human rights. None of that requires schooling and the younger humans will be educated in the needs and desires of that particular society, the one to which they belong.

The belonging is crucial. When we create schools, have we created spaces in which young people learn how to belong to the human family, how to belong to one another? Or are those spaces dedicated to teaching them how to belong to companies and organizations and put them in direct opposition to the human family and even one another?

Isn’t it time that we fully-grown humans started re-educating ourselves and re-examining our motivations, so that we don’t keep asking problematic questions?

When all your needs are met, “doing better” is a foreign concept. We have normalized the ridiculous, because that’s how we were taught. But, maybe it’s time to center our cultures, societies, and communities (and everything they produce) around the greater good of the younger of us. Imagine how much of what we’ve normalized will become obsolete in that world, a world where the needs of the children are truly prioritized and viewed as the needs of humanity (because they are).

We have been raised to normalize a false sense of progress. The fully-grown humans are not so fully grown… yet.

To fully grow into our human potential, we will need to prioritize a fuller human experience. That, like our lives, begins with youth.

photo courtesy of these children in Ethiopia and Trevor Cole of unsplash