10 Ways to be More Excellent Humans

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  1. Control your Inner Troll. When I was on The Apprentice, many people commented online. “You look like a Bohemian transvestite,” one guy said. What he didn’t know is that I took that as a compliment that I was obviously good at singing and had good taste in make-up. Ha ha, troll. But it’s so easy to make fun of people. I get this. But just because people are online doesn’t make them void of feelings. Everyone has feelings.
  1. Give Things Away. A girlfriend once commented how she liked my ring that I was wearing. “This old thing? I got it on a discount table at Talbots. It’s clearly not gold.  It’s rubbing off and I think it’s made from a melted spoon.” But she liked it, and so I boxed it up and sent it to her. Which was weird, I know. But my friends know me and accept me for my various quirks and flaws. And she thought of me and how awful this rubbed-off gold was close up every time she wore it. I presume. She ended up mailing it back to me, like “thanks for your used things, but I’m good.” Things are meaningless. Stories are what matter.
  1. Treat Customer Service People Well. My boyfriend’s son, a cashier at Pei Wei, told me that a lady berated him and questioned him why there was Ahi Tuna on the salad she ordered and demanded it be removed. “But it’s called The Ahi Tuna Salad,” he said. If you can remember back to high school when you worked a menial job where you had to take orders and bus tables, it kinda sucks. And to be treated like pond scum when you forget to include chopsticks in the bag just makes you feel worse. They are just trying to afford gas money for freak sake.
  1. Read More Books. I read Atlas Shrugged in high school and felt I was the only one in the history of the universe who had read this book and had become enlightened. It was my personal story, like somehow Ayn Rand “got me.” This was ridiculous, I realize. But in books, words describe scenes you can personally imagine rather than movies, that describe them for you. Engaging your mind and entering the fantasy world of fiction makes you (1) ignore your children (2) lose sight of all other things besides the book and (3) want to talk about the book to everyone on social media when you are finished. Okay so maybe this isn’t a way to improve upon your humanness. Screw vocabulary. Let’s all go to the movies.
  1. Have Compassion for Mean People. I had a boss once that I hated. I mean this woman was so picky and gutted my writing and tried her hardest to make me do things I didn’t want to do. She bellowed her commands in a sugary way that was mean and evil. But now that I’m grown, I realize she was lonely. She was afraid of her position in the office. She didn’t have many friends and she had a weight issue that made her feel alone and sad.  I could have swallowed my own feelings and shown up with flowers, or left her a note, or smiled at her more. Because you are don’t want to spread the same type of mean they’re dishing. Resist the urge to be a troll.
  1. Own Animals. I had a dog growing up called Tiger, who allowed me mercifully to dress him in bonnets and put socks on his feet. He was at all my mud pie baking competitions and always wagged his tail. Animals are cuddly and they love you no matter what you say or whether you are wearing dingy pajama bottoms with wine stains. Don’t judge. They are really comfortable. But owning animals reminds us all that we have someone who loves us. Except they die, fair warning. That part sucks. But owning them makes us better somehow. Get animals anyway, even if you have to get different animals later. Pet them. Talk to them. But not too much because that’s just crazy.
  1. Seek Out Funny. There was a comedian on twitter I found out lived in my town so I messaged him like “let’s get coffee! Let’s talk about humor!” and he was like “I don’t know you.” I told him I wasn’t a stalker, but he said that’s what all the stalkers say. We humans are built to laugh. So much so that we stare at television and productions and seek out people who are funny just to get the rush of endorphins that laughter provides. So if you aren’t getting enough in your daily diet, seek it out. Find what makes you bubble inside and do more of that. Unless it’s due to drugs or excessive drinking. Avoid those things.
  1. Use People’s Names. My boyfriend knows all the people’s names around, like Martin at the cleaners and Erin the customer service lady at a hotel, and he always refers to them by name. Because this makes them human and real and not just robots. In texts you can say “have a good day, Stephanie” or “I’ll see you for lunch at noon, Joseph!” until people start telling you that’s weird and then you should stop. But only then.
  1. Let Someone In Front of You. This is hard for me, because I’m always in a hurry. I run late and I barely make it on time. But there ain’t nowhere that urgent I gotta be. It just takes a few more seconds, minutes, moments – to usher someone in front of you.  Open doors and let someone in. Because mercy and grace comes to the least of us, not the greatest. The last shall become first. [Enter Bible scriptures that refer to this here; there are many I’m very certain. Jesus talked about it a lot].
  1. Control Your Anger. I have to admit, when I was going through a divorce I was angry a lot. Maybe rage is the better word. Rage about things that were done and undone and all the unraveling of lives. But this type of anger burns, and can easily get out of control. It’s sometimes easy to let anger build due to injustice or unfairness or All The Things in Life. Because it’s one thing to feel anger, which is natural, but another to allow it to consume you. Eat at you. Take over your soul. Consider it a fire inside that needs to be cooled with soothing words, deep breaths, love. These things will quench the fire, and then imagine how you can make things better, in response to what makes you angry. Being filled with anger only burns your own skin.

Let us all be better humans, one day at a time.

 

photo: “Stranger #7” by d26b73 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Letting go

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As I get older, I’m becoming keenly aware of what letting go really means.

Admittedly, I have control over small things. I choose what to cook for dinner. I choose what clothing to wear. Menial choices through the day I dictate. Sometimes, just to shake things up, I brush my teeth last or shampoo before scrubbing. I can choose to be forgiving or harsh, yell or speak. I can choose to take a stand or be quiet, be involved or in the background. I can even choose to spend three hours watching Julia Child videos.

We have the luxury to live in a country where food is plentiful, choices can be made. We have freedom to roam and explore, think and create. And worship without being killed for it.

There are always things we can control. Each decision forms us, creates something of an imprint upon the world. Our interactions with other humans creates a ripple around us, and eventually those ripples become waves, and can change the tide of history. We can teach our children to abhor hate, quell violence, love the unlovable, forgive. It is hard, but doing hard things is what makes us valuable.

And yet there are times my sense of stability comes from the mirage of control, that somehow I singlehandedly can keep my children safe, keep my world safe, build protections around my heart so I am not easily injured. I like to build passageways in front of me, paved and clean. I think I know what’s best. How to raise children. How to discipline. How to create a healthy home. How to teach about God.

But maybe I don’t. What the hell do I know.

After the birth of my daughter, I had a life-threatening infection. I had no choice to let go. Because my body was literally too weak to go on. When I was going through a divorce that cut my heart out and shredded it into pieces, I collapsed and let it all go. Not because of my own strength, but because I had no more to give.

And here I am now, facing other life pressures. A future that’s uncertain, a life that’s so full of burdens. Questions that are seemingly unanswered, despite my pleading and begging and fasting and quiet. And it’s not through my perseverance that I trust and obey, but because of my weakness that I submit. I can choose tuna over ham, Mexican over burgers. I can put my high heels on or my sandals. But those decisions have no lasting consequences.

When it comes to life’s big turning points – Things That Need To Be Answered, all I have the strength to do is let it go. As if to the wind, carrying my prayers off on the waves that I’ve seen throughout my life, the spirit that flows in and out of me. Sometimes this current is strong and other times it recedes. I do not understand God, nor am I enlightened enough to see his divine handiwork. And yet I feel God at work in my life and in the lives around me. I feel it ebb and flow, in and out, always.

So I lay down at the very feet of God, curled up like my son does at night when I read him stories. My son buries his head in my chest as I read about turtles and aircraft carriers, dogs and bears. I, too, lay down at the feet of a father, soft and yet unyielding, not needing to be defined but only fully loved.

I need to know that I’m not wasting time. That all my life choices were not in vain, but have purpose. Trusting God is the only way through, and somehow I’ll make it through. This is the security that I seek. Not in my own control but in letting go. Always and forever safe in these arms.

 

photo:

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