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counterculture: Why I Make No Apologies

countercultureTaylor P.Comment

There was a point in my life when I was known as an “A-P-O-L-O-G-I-S-T.”

I literally was called this by more than one person and at the time it didn’t really bother me. I laughed about it, self-effacing, depreciating my self without a hint of awareness about what being such entailed. My awkward self would process things accordingly:

Them: “Ouch! I stubbed my toe!” 
Me: “I’m sorry!”

Them: “My dog died today.”
Me: “I’m so sorry!”

Them: “I hate my coworker so much!”
Me: “I’m sorry!”

What I probably should have followed up with would be an account of how I am a sensitive person, an empath, who feels things intuitively and picks up on their sorrow or pain. I just wasn’t sure how to say that in a way that didn’t sound ridiculous. By saying “I’m sorry” it meant so much more. It meant “I support you. I am here for you. I can imagine how that feels and it sucks. I am trying to walk in your shoes to understand.” So being labeled an apologist, over time, gets grating. Because I wasn’t apologizing just for the sake of apologizing— I was trying to connect in a meaningful way and did a poor job of it.

The more ironic thing was that an apologist isn’t even what I was. An “apologist” is actually “a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial” according to the dictionary. I was just under-confident and unable to communicate fully. I have a history of feeling too much, thinking too much, and generally carrying all of that weight around for no reason other than some misguided overwhelming guilt and the unconscious thought that I somehow could take in someone’s pain or sadness so that they would feel less of it. I still wish this was how it worked because I would do it in a heartbeat. 

I totally believe that we should all take ownership of our actions and especially apologize meaningfully if a situation warrants an apology. There are so many times that I look back and wish I would have apologized for something I did or said. I can think of very few times in my life that I did something intentionally to inflict hurt on someone though (I can count those on one hand)— but when I have one can rest assured I probably felt worse than they did about it and agonized over it for many years.  Sometimes so much time has passed that it would be more awkward to apologize than to simply let it go and hope that the person knew you saw the error in your ways. I have a few of those, too, and I imagine they know I had regrets.  I still think about them and wish I would have had better awareness to make things right when things happened rather than waiting too long to where it was immaterial.  

But now in my thirties I have learned THAT there are things we should NOT apologize  for.

We should never apologize or make excuses for who we are or what we do. If I am living in righteous and humble ways, it’s not my responsibility if someone passes unfair judgement on me or makes false assumptions— That’s on them. Someone that has known me even for six months intimately would only know a small fraction of who I am, and I imagine most people are fairly complex, so I shouldn’t have to apologize for my complexity or my intensity. I am an extremely driven and aggressive person and I have implemented rather high standards over the years but the highest standards are on my shoulders. I am long-winded-- I love to write. I love the written word. I am a person of great verbosity and being apologetic will not phase me from being genuine and true to my form.  I have been and will probably always be a person that walks to to beat of my own drummer. I had an ex send me a video on dancing in a style he felt was more refined than my own and I said, "Why on Earth would I want to dance like everyone else? How boring!" Hell or high water, I dance the way I want to and don’t care if I look dumb doing it. I’ll apologize only when it negatively affects others. 

We should never apologize for not putting up with bad behavior. Nope, nope, nope, nope.  If someone mistreats me, I have every right to explicitly tell them how I feel about it. If it affects me, I shouldn’t have to apologize for standing up for myself. I have self-awareness enough these days to know when I am at fault or if the other person is at fault (or in many cases, if we both are.) I spent a lot of time holding my tongue in the past and it wounded me. Now I say exactly what I think with as much kindness as I can muster and in the end I have no regrets about that. I’m just learning to be a little bit more concise and straightforward about it. 

We should never apologize for having a past. Yes, I wore black in high school (FYI: not a gothic/devil-worshipper but just had an eating disorder and was ashamed of my body! THANKS, Naysaying Relatives!) I had a lot of boyfriends/partners. I was married once. I have debts. I changed majors. I owned a cafe/vintage store/venue that crashed and burned after a year. I come from a dysfunctional family. I started more projects than I can ever finish in this lifetime. I have had bad things happen to me that shouldn’t have happened to anyone ever. I did burlesque.  I used to cuss like a sailor. I used to drink and sang karaoke a bit too much.  I have written a few ranty-angsty letters before to boys— my point is, all of those things are part of the fabric of who I am, but they do not define me. Every year I grow, I become, and I transcend. I learn and evolve. The person that inherently defines me is my rather spirited character but the person I was even a year ago is a ghost and shadow of my former self—I barely recognize her at all. Life is fluid and ever-changing and so are we. 

We should never apologize for walking away in the spirit of self-preservation. If I have walked out on someone, there is a huge chance that I had really, really good reasons for doing so. It’s never a decision I make lightly.  It doesn’t mean I stopped caring about the person but it does mean I am not going to play anymore. I am too old to engage in toxic relations with people and want to focus that energy on the people and things that bring joy and passion into my life. 

We should never apologize for bad/sad/messy/off days. Sometimes we all have bad days— sometimes we’re antisocial or awkward and that is okay. I was super-guilty of being self-conscious about not being a “small talk” person or apologizing for being unhappy when legitimately horrible things were going on in my life— but no more. I’m letting that freak flag fly. Welcome to my (creative) mess. 

We should never apologize for being sensitive. I was often accused of being “oversensitive” in the past and now that I’m older I have kind of balanced out and am sensitive on a palatable level. But that doesn’t mean that I should never be allowed to cry, or be upset, or have actual emotions about anything. In a society of disconnect, being sensitive is a liability. My sensitivity is what comforts my daughter when she cries and cuts people slack when they clearly are having a rough patch. I should never have been made to feel ashamed for feeling things more deeply than some people do. 

I apologize for the things that matter.

I support those who need supporting and whether it comes out as “I’m sorry” or a long diatribe about how much I love and am there for them, it’s genuine and from the heart and people that take issue with that just need to get over it. I’m NOT sorry about that one. No one should ever have to apologize for being kind.

We should only apologize for the things that are worth apologizing about. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty or sorry about things that are out of our control. Just because someone doesn’t take ownership doesn’t mean you have to. We should use that energy in more profound and constructive ways to fuel our inner fires and become what we are meant to be. So guys— no apologies. You’re officially on notice! :)

 

 

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counterculture: and like the phoenix, i rise, i rise || ten meditations

countercultureTaylor P.
"lone descent" by  Dafni Kemeridou

"lone descent" by Dafni Kemeridou

THE RISING TIDE

Life can be painful and confusing but at the end of the day every experience shapes and molds us. The end goal (we hope) is that we evolve into better, kinder, wiser versions of ourselves. The older I get, the more I try to refine myself as a person and become a better version of myself. But that better version isn't without growing pains or failures. There are many times I have made lapses of judgement, poor choices, and thrown caution to the wind. I will continue making mistakes and I know that, but I will do my best not to make as many.

When I had my daughter, something within me changed. I am no longer the person I once was-- in a way I became the person I used to be, only I took a detour. In some ways it has made me more loving and patient, but in other ways it has made me more discerning about who or what I want in my life for the next cycle. I am no longer shackled to the things that held me captive before, and although there are different limitations now, I feel more responsive to the world and more confident about my place in it.

Last year I crumbled to dust and was almost swept away by the events of life, but somehow I found courage and strength to rise from the ashes. I am no longer the same but something different. But it also means no longer tolerating that which does not create happiness. When any relationship, big or small, brings you more pain than joy it is time to let go. If I have learned nothing else these last 31 years, it is that I now know when to walk away and when to stay. 

I am focusing on raising our daughter and giving her an awesome start at life as much as I am able. I have started meditating have been on a silent self-improvement campaign, living mindfully, and streamlining my life. I am surrounding myself with people that are not so focused on material things, or status, or constantly dwelling in negativity or drama. Although I have always been one to take accountability or eat crow where it is due, I am furthering those initiatives by being more self-aware and preventative. I am more determined to build and maintain those relationships where it feels mutual and being the best mom, daughter, girlfriend, friend, and acquaintance I can be. I am educating myself on so many subjects right now, kickstarting a business, writing books, volunteering, and throwing myself into my new job with all of its meaningful work. I am casting out disingenuous friendships and dishonest relations and striving toward being around people who have integrity and make me want to be and do more. Selfish and selfless but nevertheless growing. But I want to be a better version of myself for my family and for myself


Throughout this process, I often return to these TEN Meditations Fit For a Phoenix:

1.  ACCEPT (AND RESPECT) WHAT WE CANNOT CHANGE
I read this article and it really resonated with me. I think much of the time we feel like we are in control but it is such an illusory idea that we have control over anything in our lives. Even our decisions, however minor, generally have a process. It can be frustrating to recognize this powerlessness within us. However, there is great courage in allowing everyone the space and respect to be their own person. There is great sacrifice in loving yourself and accepting that your power lies not in what you can control but how you navigate the sea of change. 

2.  NEVER REMAIN NEUTRAL (BUT TAKE THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE OFTEN)
The great Elie Wiesel once said: "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere." I think it is important to have integrity and stand up for yourself (or others) when there is injustice. Remaining neutral may be peaceful but it order to help influence change in our society or improve the quality of life for others it is of paramount importance that we find our voices and be willing to intelligently and compassionately support those who need our support.  If we can take the path of least resistance, that is ideal, but in all things we should be mindful of
the fact that collectively we have the opportunity to make big or small changes within our circles or communities if we are willing to try. 

3. FORGIVE WHAT WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND
We all make mistakes and misunderstandings are a direct result of not being the same person. I know I am often guilty of only seeing my perspective until I remind myself that other people process things differently and no one is wrong in that respect. Perception is reality. So I am very conscious of trying to think through the motivations of others and attempt to understand where they are coming from and why they do the things they do. I may not forget the transgressions but this has allowed me to forgive them, for the human error exists in us all. Just because I don't understand something or share the same values doesn't mean that the other person’s process is any less valuable or real. This fantastic guided meditation by Deepak Chopra is so helpful in combatting the negative and disparate feelings resulting from this confusion. 

4. TAKE COMFORT IN THE PASSING OF TIME
When my childhood pets died suddenly, I thought I would never heal. I probably cried every day for at least a year. They were with me through so much of my life and the world felt very empty and lonely without them there. The grieving process for any end can be long or short, fast or slow, and has its own way of operating. Grief doesn't have a timeline or a guidebook. Whether a physical death or a figurative one, we are reminded of our mortality, of the clock ticking, and of the feelings associated with uncertainty. We must take comfort in the fact that we are able to have time now to manifest change within ourselves and within our lives. Rather than taking a fatalistic approach to life, we should make every minute count with those we hold dear and consciously not take them for granted. We can take comfort in the fact that slow or fast, we can choose to create wonderful experiences during the passage of time that will be timeless. 

5. BE PRESENT
Along with being more self-aware, being present in our lives is of great importance. I know at times I am guilty of looking at my phone a bit too much or distracting myself from feeling or experiencing on more profound levels just to escape momentarily, but in an age where connection is fleeting we need to be more present and in touch with not only ourselves but the world around us. There are so many details we probably miss every day if we would just look up and interact with our environment and the ironies of life. 

6. REFLECT ON IMPROVEMENT
Start a bullet journal. List goals, accomplishments, and create detailed plans for improvement. Really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on the person you want to be without the limitations of societal or personal obstacles and outline the steps to achieve your dreams, even if you don't know what you want 100%

7. BE MORE VULNERABLE
Don't let bad experiences hold you back from love or happiness. I know for me personally I accumulated bad experiences in a mental suitcase and traveled around from place to place saying,"Oh no-- I've seen this before." It wasn't until I met my current boyfriend that I realized that after years of thinking I had all these issues and hangups that made me unloveable that I actually DIDN'T have those things-- I just made poor choices in who I made myself vulnerable to and often we were incompatible in that respect. So I went into this relationship with no roadmap-- I went in sans suitcase and I found that by being MORE vulnerable, letting my guard down, and not letting my past mistakes discolor the very bright and sunny portrait that I was-- I was loved and accepted for who I am intrinsically, regardless of my faults. And now I don't feel the anxiety, fears, or insecurities that came with all of the others because I am being the best self I can be (not what someone else expected me to be) and being completely transparent. 

8. TAKE A LEAP INTO THE UNKNOWN
Like many of you, I have fears: fears of failure, fears of financial ruin, etc. Real, legitimate, crazy making fears about not being good enough. When we constantly compare ourselves to others and their successes, we are focusing meaningful energy on something useless and depressing. Sometimes we have to take calculated risks and take chances that we normally would talk ourselves out of. By putting the focus back on ourselves and taking INSPIRATION from the things that enrich our souls rather than being green with envy over what we feel we have yet to accomplish, we can map positive strategies to maximize our success. Be consistent. Be intentional. Rather than worry about potential failure, reorient your mindset to what success looks like and attempt to make your dreams come true. You won't know if you can succeed if you never try it. 

9.  CREATION IS CATHARTIC
There seems to be a strong correlation between wellbeing and creation for those geared toward more artistic endeavors.It is a mutually symbiotic relationship.  I feel more alive, more vibrant, and more confident when creating things than in any other aspect of my life. It is my lifeblood, how I recuperate, and is generally what keeps me in good spirits the majority of days. Having that outlet is important. When faced with a creative block, I have to really work hard at other areas of my life to generate the enthusiasm needed to sustain the same level of expansive optimism that I normally take for granted. The catharsis lies in the ability to channel more articulate ways of doing things, as the more you do a particular task the better you can accomplish it in the future. By creating, you maintain some semblance of control. Like other creators and artists, you can find unique ways that work for you to get the creative energy flowing. 

10. RISE ABOVE
Always be your best self. Always treat people as you would like to be treated. Respect those is different situations from your own. Don't rush to judgement. Remember that when you face adversity, it builds your character. If you aren't changing then you are stagnating. Rise above your limitations. Rise from the ashes and become your higher self. 


What are some things you do regularly to improve your life?


 

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diagram: Why I'm Not "Goal-Setting" Anymore

diagramMaddie C.Comment

Every year we set the same high-reaching goals, whether it be getting on that treadmill or finally quitting that ill-fated 8-shot latte addiction. I spent most of 2015 in a state of complete flux and failed to achieve any of the goals I had set. This, along with turning thirty that year, made me very aware of how my lofty goals and actualities were not lining up. I recently unearthed my Thirty Before Thirty list and was heartbroken. Out of thirty goals I had set for myself when I was in my twenties, I had only achieved five!

The reality of this is that all of these goals tend to make us miserable. The failure of realization, no matter how small or large the goal, is a source of misery, especially for perfectionists like myself. There is only so much time in the day and time tends to pass so swiftly, especially as we get older. We are standing on the precipices of change and chance and we have the ability to jump headlong into oblivion or to focus on more mundane tasks in hopes that we will be better versions of ourselves.

This year I resolved, rather than to pick and choose unrealistic goals that I may or may not reach, I would live without the confinements of traditional goal-setting. Instead, I would focus on being a better version of myself simply by being present in my life. In a world that is constantly in transition, we tend to lose ourselves in the flood. Rather than lamenting over weight gain or all of the unfinished projects I have piling up that I may or may not ever finish, I would like to spend this time living and simply being. If I accomplish things, it is because I consciously am living in the moment and not because I am living by an unrealistic task list that I may be lucky to complete a portion of in my lifetime, much less in a year.

Rather than spend time making lists that ultimately will make you feel guilty, why not make a list of things that bring you joy (or better yet— bring others joy?) What are simple tasks that enrich your life and make you feel like a better person? How are you contributing to your world? Living presently and setting reminders for myself of things I actually want to do seems much more reasonable than setting goals for things I will half-heartedly attempt. 

I began an introspective investigation into this during December and came up with the following items that make me feel like I am being an active participant without setting unnecessary goals for myself this year. In a way, I am reverting to my childhood and remembering what it was like to be present, kind, creative, and open-minded. 

being present: Spending time each day simply existing. By reflecting on what is happening in the here and now, we can become aware that what is happening in this moment will never happen again in the same way. Because we tend to spend so much time rushing around, we forget what it is like to be focused. I remember sights and sounds and even smells from my childhood, attached to memory, because I was much more present at the time. I would like to continue working on being more present in my daily interactions with the world and in my relationships with others.

being nice (just because): Giving compliments. Doing thoughtful things for people we love and people we don’t even know. Taking time out to give back some of the wonderful gifts we are given, even if they are in small ways. Even just smiling at someone as you pass them can be a gesture of kindness and goodwill. I know that for me personally I spend a disproportionate amount of time in my own head and often neglect the simple things.

being creative: Being creative is central to the balance of happiness for me. I am resolving to attempt to think more creatively and attempt to find more innovative solutions to common problems throughout the day. Like any other skill, creativity needs an outlet and needs occasional sharpening to achieve maximum potential. But instead of only focusing on my creative endeavors, I hope to spend this year (and the rest of my life) helping others achieve their creative goals.

being open: Not jumping to conclusions, judging, or lacking trust. Building relationships through mutual admiration and differing values. I find that often I get bogged down by my own perceptions of my tiny universe and fail to see the viewpoints of others in the light they are meant in.  By being open to the world and what gifts it brings through people and situations, we can kick suspicion to the curb and learn to appreciate that our differences are what make us unique and wonderful.

 

Those are just some ways to actively participate in life. What are some strategies you all use in place of goal-setting?

 

 

 

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