We are walking on eggshells—all of us—and why wouldn't we? That's what people DO when the truth turns grey. We weigh our options and wonder what to believe and who to trust, but what if no one is right? What if all of us are wrong?
It is hard to remain silent when you see a train in the distance, heading straight towards a car sitting on the tracks. You want to wave your hands high in the air and scream, "STOP THE TRAIN WRECK!" But you can't stop a train from rolling full speed—windows closed, doors locked, conductor scrolling Facebook—when no one is listening. So instead, you stand by and watch the black plume of hot ash rip through the streets from a safe distance until the dust clears. And then you run, as fast as you can with your heart fastened to a delicate line, and fish around to see if there are any survivors. The thing is, you can't save everyone.
Humans are hard-wired to solve problems and fix things. They want their voices heard and their votes to count, and while their good intentions may be worth noting, those listening aren't interested in who to blame. Logically speaking, no one person (or side) has all the answers; that's why fortune 500 companies spend so much money on team collaboration. By promoting one-sided logic, we eliminate the necessary thought process to goes into creating a united front, and we close ourselves off to endless possibilities. With so much information at our fingertips, why would anyone deliberately choose to travel down this road?
Remember when you were a kid, and your parents would scold you—often in front of others—for doing something ridiculous, and even though you knew they were right, you would put your hands over your ears and hum, super loud, to drown out their voices? Well, YOU'RE NOT A KID ANYMORE!
One of the toughest things for a grown-up to do is admit when they are wrong. Most of us will fight tooth and nail, often canceling each other out, to prove a point or avoid an uncomfortable moment. Spoiler: being right won't fix your tire when the rubber meets the road.
We are evolving, but some of the changes are counterproductive. People are 'cutting ties' with friends and family, and boasting about it on social media as if it deserves an award. Friends, resentment is nothing to celebrate. Vengeance is nothing to admire. What inspires people is unity and love. It's the kind of thing that makes us proud to be American, and it is vanishing right before our eyes.
Every morning, we wake up with a gold coin in our hand and choose heads or tails. The irony is that it doesn't matter which side faces up when it lands because the choice is inherently yours. When faced with a problem, you decide when to stop arguing over who's right or wrong and find a solution that works for everyone. Better hurry though, you wouldn't want to be sitting on those tracks when the next train comes through, or you're liable to crack a windshield.
I recently published a story (since deleted) that was based on a Facebook post from the day before. Moments after sharing the update on social media, one of my followers left a comment stating it was a "lame repost."
Frustrated, the old me would have retaliated with an unpolished comeback. Perhaps something along the lines of "No, you're the lame repost." But the new me, the cleaned-up version—a worn-out mother who spent the last four years of her life protecting herself against a narcissistic tyrant—just stared at the screen, flustered, and deleted his comment. Then, I hopped on my bike and rage-peddled for six-and-a-half miles.
When I reached the top of murder hill, it dawned on me why his careless criticism had upset me so much. This person had absolutely no idea who I was or what my life was all about. He didn't know about my emotional courtroom drama, or how hard I've been working to keep a roof over my child's head, nor did he have a clue how tough it is for a 53-year-old mother to hustle with muscle as an independent writer without letting her thick skin get bruised. And while it may sound like a lucrative career choice, sharing content on social media doesn't benefit the originator unless they pay for engagement.
So, was it a shameless repost? Absolutely. Was it lame? According to one man, it was, but it made me laugh, and I hoped to do the same for others. If I could speak to the person who started his day by trying to ruin mine, I would have this to say: Sprinkling fairy dust over a hostile world to make a few extra pennies on a t-shirt or ad before your mortgage is due isn't pathetic; it's a vital component of freelance life.
It seems no one thinks before they speak anymore. Instead, we argue, harass, and belittle one another, saying horrible things we would never say face-to-face with zero empathy and little respect. The good news: it's fixable, but it's going to take a village.
As grown-ups, it is our job to lead by example and pass our wisdom down to younger generations. Hold on; let's back up. Stop what you are doing right now—except reading, obviously—and get on social media, preferably Facebook or Twitter. Next, I want you to scroll down and find a political post (this shouldn't take long) that upsets you, and read the comments. How long did it take before you found one that was so wicked it made you cringe? My guess would be under a minute.
Let's take it a step further. Think back to the year 2000 if you can, before social media seized your attention with its mighty bells and whistles. Do you remember what that felt like?; because I sure do. We had answering machines and disposable cameras. When friends and family gathered together—bellying up to a bar to splurge on pure nonsense—moments were rarely captured on film. Rather than swiping a digital attendant in search of a decent filter that would conceal our flaws, manipulate reality, and ruin the fucking moment, we focused on giving one another our full attention. It was a lovely and drama-free way to live, and I can count the number of times we fought over 'differences of opinions' on zero fingers because it never happened until now.
It's been twenty years since I developed my last roll of film. Most of my friends have kids now, the vast majority of which are on social media, sharing flawless selfies and staged portraits of friends and family beaming with joy, despite any backstory of pain. Today, everything is an illusion, and yet very real. People are beginning to show sides of themselves that they never shared in person. They're wearing buttons now for Christ's sake, letting you know exactly who they are and what they stand for in case you are curious. But how much is too much information? Do we really need to know who you voted for in the primaries? We never did before.
Humanity is slipping. Nothing is private, and everything is personal. We have given in to The Seven Deadly Sins in exchange for convenience and look at what it is doing to our world. On a happy scale of one to ten, most of us are teetering between two and three, and as far as I can see, there is only one way to make this better: we must go back to a simpler time and change our behavior.
Remember when you were little, and your parents would tell you to be kind others? They'd say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything."
Well, it's time to go home and stay put because your parents were right. It may take a while for the domino effect to go viral, but if we all work together, I feel like we have a pretty good shot at fixing things.
Who's with me?
Relationships require nurturing, all of them, not just the ones you have with a significant other. Every single person you come into contact with is a tiny seed waiting for food. And while some require light and warmth to grow, others thrive in cold, dark places.
People are prickly. They have all sorts of thorns and bristles that they may not even be aware of, or maybe they ARE conscious but feel naked without them. Either way, those pointy barbs can cause an awful lot of damage if you let them, which is why humans must prune themselves regularly.
Nineteen years ago—Wow. That hurt just to write.—I attended an emotional boot camp. One of our assignments was to forgive someone who had caused us pain. Sounds simple, right? It wasn't. Tasked with calling that person(s) to tell them you had forgiven them, they walked us down the hall to a room packed with small desks and phones.
I remember sitting at the table, staring at an empty wall, wondering what to say when the phone stopped ringing. Awkward doesn't even begin to describe that brutal two minute call, and it wasn't until later that I understood why. After sharing my experience with the person who convinced me to sign up for the workshop in the first place, he just smiled and said, "You didn't forgive this person. Try again."
What the hell. How could he say this to me knowing how hard it was for me to make that call? Without so much as a flinch, he looked me in the eye and told me that my apology was inauthentic. Then, we went round and round for what seemed like an eternity, tears shooting out of my eyes like a splash pad at a theme park, until he said something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
"This person isn't sitting at home, crying over what happened thirty years ago, you are. You are the only one suffering, and you've been doing it since childhood. How much longer are you going to keep this up?" His brief lecture ended with a tough question that changed my life: "Is it worth all of this pain to be right?" The answer was no.
The next morning, I made another call; only this time, my forgiveness was genuine. It was the most powerful conversation of my life, but only one of us felt the impact. I was thirty-four years old that day, and even though that relationship is no longer viable, the weight from decades of pain instantly vanished the second we hung up the phone. Still, I find myself licking old wounds, sobbing over that which I cannot control, and struggling to let go of righteousness at least once a week. Enlightenment is a beautiful thing as long as you practice what you preach.
Two things are guaranteed to block love and cause pain: refusing to let go of being right and failure to forgive. Those issues will haunt you for a lifetime if you let them. They will destroy your livelihood and lead you down a very dark and lonely road. Before you put down that watering can and stop nurturing affection, ask yourself what is more important: being right or maintaining that relationship. Refusing to forgive someone—regardless of what they did to you or someone you love—will ultimately lead to sorrow. My advice is to let that shit go before it kills you because it will, and no one should ever die of a broken heart.
If you had asked me what "Gaslighting" was ten years ago, I probably would have responded with a biting one-liner about my cheap-ass stove to avoid appearing ignorant. But that was then, and this—one terrifying and costly legal battle later—is now.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where a person (or group) targets another person (or group) to make them question their beliefs, abilities, memories, perceptions, or even their sanity. It is a systematic means to an end, designed to beat your self-esteem to the ground and tear your life apart, and it's fucking scary.
I'll give you a quick example as it relates to current events. Suppose your friends invite you to a COVID party during quarantine and you decline. But instead of accepting your decision and moving on, they begin harassing you on social media, calling you names, and getting others to side against you. It's a bit of a stretch, but you see where I'm going with this—right?
In theory, it sounds like an easy thing to spot that is simple to destroy. In reality, you may not even know what is happening until your face melts off and hardens on the floor. By that time, the flame is red hot and spreading. So, what do you do if you suspect you are a victim? Lucky for you, I've mastered the art of dealing with this crap, and am sharing it here for the low, low price of NOTHING. Enjoy the free education, folks. If you follow my lead and do as I suggest, I promise you will thank me later.
Are you ready? Here it is, the most straightforward smidge of advice you will ever get on this topic: DO NOT ENGAGE. SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND LET THAT SHIT GO. That's right; the sooner you start practicing this one skill, the quicker you will be on the road to recovery—trust. It took 53 years and a shit-ton of therapy to recognize and eradicate this kind of manipulation from my life, but I did it, and so can you.
Ignoring someone who is brutally attacking your character is beyond stressful, especially when they do it in front of others. It's automatic to want to fight back, or at the very least, defend your integrity, but doing so with a person (or persons) intent on discrediting you is not only a complete waste of time; it's what they want, and the second you give them that, you lose.
There is one caveat that I failed to mention: You must always do what you say, and say what you mean. For instance, if you threaten to block someone on social media, don't leave a heartfelt comment about how you wish things didn't have to end this way, just DO IT! Put your finger on the "buh-bye" button and end that shit, permanently.
Most importantly, pay attention. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a gaslit tongue, bite yours and step away from the heat. The only way to diffuse a fire of this magnitude is to withhold oxygen. Anything else is a waste of breath.