Stopping the Buck

It’s not just you – everybody’s having a hard time. Especially lately.

One way to help minimize that is to look at the hard time you’re having and to be mindful of how it’s impacting the way you act. Are you taking the angry, negative shit that’s flying around the world and passing it on to someone else, spinning the great lazy susan of misery after filling your plate with hate and hopelessness?


Decide that it ends with you, that it goes no further.

Decide that you’ll be the person standing on that wall, accepting responsibility for the way you behave and the impact you have on others.

Decide that you’ll be the one to stop the cycle, to step outside of the endless ring of pain and recrimination and hate and anger.

Decide that you’ll take what the world gives you and turn it into something positive and helpful and that you’ll be kind.

It’s not easy. It’s really, really hard. You’ll be very imperfect at it. But that doesn’t mean we should give up on it.

Some ways to do that:

– Be less negative on social media. I stop myself from posting like 20 negative things on Facebook a day, and I’m happier for it. When I do post something negative I feel about it the way I feel about overindulging in junk food – it gives me a crappy, queasy sensation later.

– Feel free to stop condemning people and start boosting people. A lot of folks in the world are fucking up or doing bad things. We know. We saw. Everybody saw. And we all assume you’re against it. You don’t need to join the mob screaming about it.

What you CAN do is start a choir to sing about something good. Mad about Roy Moore? Talk about why Doug Jones is good. Angry about patriarchal rape culture? Talk about women who are doing interesting, strong things.

I’m not saying ignore the bad things. I’m saying stop ignoring the good things.

– Forgive yourself first. You won’t be able to approach the world, in all its frailties and flaws, with an open heart if you’re constantly tearing yourself down. It’s okay to make mistakes or do it wrong or be angry or even lash out. Pobody’s nerfect, as Travis Bickle might say. Use your errors as signposts for improvement, being aware of the way you behaved and understanding why you need to change that. Let’s put it this way – when a pro pitcher realizes he’s not putting enough spin on his ball he doesn’t give up and assume he’ll throw shitty balls all his life – he figures out how to put more spin on his ball. (I know nothing about sports, so that analogy may be a mess. But I can’t just use scifi shit for my analogies forever)

– Don’t assume the worst. Try this exercise: next time someone fucks up, especially someone who has been otherwise decent, assume the best about them. Assume that they honestly fucked up, that they’re not some irredeemable bad person whose rottenness is finally coming to the fore. Approach the situation from that perspective, rather than our current default perspective, which is largely “let’s get pitchforks and torches and burn that monster out of the windmill.”

Here’s the advanced version of that: understand that EVERYBODY, no matter how rotten, has reasons for what they do, and that very often those reasons were conditioned into them when they were children. The programming is bad, not the hard drive.

– Remember that being decent doesn’t make you a hero. You’re doing the bare minimum, and your job isn’t to lord it over others, it’s to convince others to join you up on that wall. Don’t stand at a great height and piss on those still at ground level – build them ladders. Or that big elevator they have at the Wall by Castle Black.

– Most importantly remember that the buck stops here, with you. With me. We cannot decide what happens to us, or how others will act, but we CAN decide how we respond to those things. That’s the control you have – exercise it well and wisely.

Side note: self care is important when undertaking the personal mission of ‘being decent,’ but remember that self care is NOT eating bad food, vegging in front of the TV, shopping or other insular, gratifying vices. Self care is talking to others about how you feel, getting movement into your daily routine, getting sleep, consuming meaningful art and eating in a way that gives your body the actual energy to function well. I’m not saying DON’T eat junk or watch TV or whatever, but don’t rationalize that by saying it’s self care.