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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 we are living with a kind heart. 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 (not in the bad way— just in the take-charge and approach people gregariously sort of way) 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, of course, will apologize if I have hurt someone, whether intentional or unintentional. 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 they feel this is in error, they have every right to explain their side. But 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, in which case I will apologize for my part in things.) 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 (usually—- I am anything but succinct typically.)

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 (usually with good cause, but still probably not befitting of what most consider lady-like behavior)— 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. That being said, if someone has wronged people in a criminal way, or done something malicious to another, they should have the balls to apologize for their past behaviors no matter how long ago the incident. A lot of things CAN be solved by a humble apology or trying to make things right, too.

We should never apologize for walking away in the spirit of self-preservation. If I have walked out on someone (or something,) 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. I will try for a period, and give them many chances to prove they have a good nature, but at the end of the day if there is more good than bad I will exit or keep my emotional distance permanently.

We should never apologize for bad/sad/messy/off days. Sometimes we all have bad days— sometimes we’re a little 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.  I will do my best to just tell people ahead of time I am having a “blah” day and then keep to myself. Sometimes being an introverted-extrovert (or vice versa) means we gotta recharge.

We should never apologize for being sensitive. I was often accused of being “oversensitive” in the past (I probably was at times, to be sure) 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 (and girls)— no apologies (unless you truly NEED to apologize.) You’re officially on notice! :)



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▵▼Future Primitive▼▵: 12 Ways You're Doing It Wrong

Maddie C.Comment
I was washing the dishes the other day, and my husband made a loud grunting noise. I looked over at him and he scowled.

“What?” I looked at him then back at the dishwasher, then back at him.
You’re doing it wrong.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The dishes. You’re not loading them right.”

Of course, I was livid. Of course I was loading them right. I have only been doing dishes since I was a kid, practically.

“Okay, big shot. If you think you’re so smart, show me how to do it properly.”

And he did. And guess what? He had a pretty good point. I wasn't washing them wrong per say, but there was a much better method to do them that I hadn't figured out quite yet on my own. 

So, I guess it is my turn to tell you, dear reader, that you’re doing it wrong. Only it’s not about the dishes (although you may be doing those wrong, too.) It’s about life. I hate the break it to you, but that's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise

I used to think that I had all of the answers to everything. I would pretend to folks that I was humble, but in reality I totally thought I knew everything about everything and I wanted you to know it. I would argue things into the ground it if meant winning the argument. In truth, I don’t even think I listened to the other party—I just blasted them into submission.

I’m here to tell you that I don’t have all the answers. But I have learned a lot of things that might be helpful after years of “doing them wrong” and yes, often doing them wrong over and over again. 

  1. Relationships                                                                                                                                               My opinion of relationships was once probably really one-sided. I expected to be doted upon and that I would meet a man and live happily ever after, never fighting or complaining or having to have the “hygiene” talk with them. Therefore, every relationship already had near-impossible expectations placed upon it. I never made any room for the “work” aspect of relationships, but it makes perfect sense from the perspective of the value of working hard to achieve any goal. If you’re constantly playing it safe, your relationship will lack depth and evolution. And the whole point in a relationship is for the individuals to grow (together) into better people, not to stagnate in the pool for fear of rocking the boat (or to pummel each other into submission.) Real relationships stand the test of time, and sometimes that means you have to row a while before reaching the shore.  And sometimes it's a huge ocean to cross and not just a little pond. It’s hard work—as hard as working a job or raising kids, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it  because the benefits far outweigh the risks. Relationships fail when we stop trying to understand one another and stop working together. So if you're stuck in the middle of the ocean, grab an oar and start paddling.                                                                                                                                                                           
  2. Fighting
     I hate to break it to you, but most of us don’t fight fair. We may think we fight fair, but the human condition unfortunately means that we typically will reach a point where we hit the fight-or-flight instinct. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that has complete control over their emotions (except maybe sociopaths, which is just weird and creepy) and when you look at scientifically how we operate, it is very hard to not kick into that competitive gear when we’re in the middle of an emotionally-charged situation. There are two ways to combat this. The first is to really listen to what the other person is saying, and respectfully state your opinion. And I’m not talking about using “I” statements and sugarcoating things, but really trying to focus on what is being said and to articulate it with compassion and kindness. Not saying you should treat them with kid gloves, but if your kid broke a vase by accident, would you yell at them or be more worried about them stepping in the glass? Because typically the issue is way more minor than destroying the relationship. The second way to handle it is to not sweat the small stuff. If someone left their dirty socks outside of the hamper, it isn’t WWIII. Pick ‘em up, put ‘em in the basket, and move on with your life. Don't take it so darn personally, because they probably really did just forget and weren't trying to attempt some mutiny on your love. 
  3. Living
    I don’t know about you, but I struggle with maintaining my own identity. In a world where I am constantly trying to live up to expectations of my hubby, my kids, family, friends, etc., it is easy to lose sight of my personal goals and dreams. If you put all other relationships aside for just a moment, who are you? Are you the same person you used to be? Have you grown or have you backtracked? Sometimes we lose ourselves in other people, especially if we naturally like to nurture. But we also need to nurture ourselves. If you don’t have a hobby right now, get one. Even if it is five minutes a day, carve out some personal space for yourself to grow. Go for a walk, read a good book, or take a class about a subject you’re dying to know more about. Otherwise, dissatisfaction will creep in, with complacency soon to follow. These things are poison and can wreak havoc on your relationships and your self-esteem. If you're not really living, what are you doing? ▿
  4. Dying
    There is such a thing as being overly morbid. The usual reaction to death is to either steer as far away from it in your mind as possible, or to embrace it so fully that people look at you weird. Some people are more comfortable with death than others, but constantly scrutinizing every choice you make as being potentially fatal is not really living—it’s dying. Yes, in reality we’re all going to die someday and that is a given, but obsessing over the inevitable takes up so much valuable lifetime that we could spend in much more productive ways. That being said, doing things that intentionally shorten your lifespan (smoking, drinking, meth, eating stuff that is bad for you in excess, shooting bottle rockets at each other, etc) isn’t the way to go either. Moderation is key. It’s okay to wonder what happens after death, but if you begin sliding into depression, make sure to get some help getting out of it. 
  5. Family
    I was once under the belief that blood relatives were supposed to love each other because…well…you’re relatives. But what I found is that sometimes your family may not love you, often for reasons you have no control over. And sometimes you can have just as strong of a bond with friends. I had family members that most would consider “toxic” so it was a choice I eventually made, after years of being hurt by them, to break contact. I have had to do this with family and friends at times in my life. As much as it sucks, you have to make an executive decision about your own happiness. And that may seem selfish, but sometimes “trimming the social fat” is good for the soul. Because you don’t need people dragging you down in a world that’s already filled with people and things trying to drive a wedge between you and your happiness. The world is full of a bunch of haters, even the folks you care about. It doesn’t mean that they deserve your love or devotion, and you’re not a bad guy for wanting to protect yourself from further hurt. As far as the good family members and friends--- nurture those plants, baby! A solid relationship is built on watering it regularly, making sure it has plenty of sun, and letting it flourish. Someday you might just have a beautiful garden, but it's up to you to make it happen. 
  6. Forgiveness
    Forgiveness is probably one of the most obvious things folks do wrong. I was never really very good at it, and it is still a work in progress sometimes. Even when people would apologize to me, I still would bring up whatever incident caused the rift years later, and in full scathing regalia and mocking tonal range. Perhaps I didn’t have the maturity to accept that people make mistakes, until, lo and behold, I began making them myself. It’s very humbling to say you’re sorry to someone you’ve wronged. And often it takes more than an apology to smooth things over—sometimes you have to eat crow for a while to help rebuild the trust. And yes, sometimes people don’t actually mean they’re sorry—they just want the conflict to be over with or their guilt to be assailed. But at some point, if they have passed all the tests or eaten enough crow, you need to forgive them and move on. And if you can’t forgive them and continue harboring hate and ill will towards them, perhaps you need to reevaluate your capacity to forgive. Even if they never say they’re sorry, you have to be the bigger person and forgive them anyway, for your own piece of mind. It doesn’t mean you won’t forget what happened or change how you feel about that person, but if you approach issues with compassion and empathy rather than hate and ignorance, it can resolve most misunderstandings you encounter. Always have the strength and bravery to admit when you’re wrong, even if it is a hard pill to swallow.  If nothing else, it shows sincerity, and the openness to compromise and acceptance is the best way to repair any situation that has gone awry. 
  7. Kids
    Germs are not all bad. Some germs are your friends. You can’t protect your kids from everything (although you’ll try, believe me, you’ll try.) Sometimes you just have to let them fend for themselves a bit. I know that’s the complete opposite of what every child-rearing book teaches you, but I would bet your grandma would wholeheartedly agree. Our country was built on people making mistakes and doing dumb things. If you can teach your children the consequences of actions and the value of making good choices, they may slip up a time or two, but they should typically learn by experience not to do them again. By allowing them the free will to grow to some extent, they will become much more mature and responsible as they grow older. Coddling kids is good when they are young and NEED that type of affection (in fact, it'll probably keep them from growing up to be serial killers), but like all good mama birds, you have to teach them to fly eventually, even if they fall flat on their butts the first time or two. And don’t ever squash their imaginations or their creativity. You have to let their freak flags fly, even if it results in an unavoidable explanation to your relatives on why they chose to wear the most insane clothing ever to the big family Christmas dinner (my mom's excuse was that it was the 80's, by the way.) Never try to fit them into whatever stereotype you think they should be, because oftentimes they will not only grow to resent you but suffer poor self-confidence in the process. Let them be who they are, and love them for that. 
  8. Work                                                                                                                                                            You probably knew this subject was coming, and yes, you’re probably doing it wrong. Working is not just about work, no matter what you’ve been told. Yes, it takes hard work and dedication to be successful, but you should choose to work smarter and not harder (unless you’re one of the lucky few that enjoys HARD work.) This could mean choosing to get a degree in something (I got mine later in life, so, no excuses, grandpa!), learning a new trade or skill, or conducting research and learning about the industry you’re in. The point is to find something you’re excited about and try to excel in it to the best of your ability. If what you’re interested in isn’t an ideal career choice, find something LIKE what you want to do, or do something mundane that pays okay that will afford you the time for the things you actually enjoy doing. It’s a sad reality of the world, but an adequate amount of money can alleviate some of the stress you are under. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you’re NOT living to your full potential. If you want to settle, that’s fine, but most people have dreams or lofty goals in mind. Even if it is something like going to the moon, don’t let your current situation hold you back from excelling in something. Life changes at the drop of a hat, and luck has a funny way of finding folks that are open to it, so don’t be afraid of change. In my husband’s case, he decided to go back to get his Bachelor’s degree after taking a hiatus from school. It was hard financially, and we had to struggle a bit, but the payoff is that he LOVES his job and actually likes going to work every day. The number one killer of marriages tends to be depression (with #2 being finances), so if you’re miserable about your job, it won’t just hurt you but everyone around you. If you’re not happy with your movie, change your scene.  If you’re still stumped with what to do, think about getting involved in civic activities or groups. The power of helping people (and animals) can be an amazing experience and you will feel value in yourself at making a difference. The only person holding you back is….well--  You. So get out there and follow your dreams. 
  9. Regrets                                                                                                                                                         We all have things we wish we would have done differently in our lives, I’m sure. I’ve read that on their deathbeds, most people regret the following three things: 1) That they didn’t do what they wanted to do, but rather what was expected of them, 2) That they didn’t show the people they cared about that they loved and appreciated them enough until it was too late, and 3) That they spent too much of their lives being afraid and not experiencing enough. Some pretty heavy regrets to have, huh? So, rather than have regrets, take this opportunity to look at your regrets you already have. If you died today, what would you regret? If they are things you can change now, go for it. Call that friend up you haven’t talked to in years and tell them that you miss them. Save up and go on that vacation to the Bahamas that you always wanted. Write that novel you always thought you could, and then try to get it published. The key is to accomplish this without expectation and hope for the best.  If there are things you cannot change, learn from them. Don’t burn bridges that can’t be built again. Combat hate with love. Focus on being the best person you can be and live your life making every second count for something. Whether we have one life to live or many lives, this is the only life we have in this body here and now, so we have to make the best of it. Embody good things and you will accomplish anything you set your mind to. 
  10. Comparison                                                                                                                                                   If you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, you’re doing it wrong. Because when you were born, you were comprised of a unique set of chromosomes and particulate matter. You’re parents gave you most of their attributes (both good and bad, am-I-right?) and somehow that became the person you see in the mirror today. This also happened to everyone else. This does not mean you’re not special or unique, but simply that we all come into the world with our own strengths and weaknesses. We all come in the same way and it is up to us to become the people we want to be. Constantly belittling or criticizing yourself for not being rich, or pretty/handsome, or having things other people have does absolutely nothing for you other than making you feel like a loser. And the sad part is that those other people probably see you and think,”I wish I was laid back and happy like that guy” or “I wish I could pull off that fashion as well as she does.” Because that is the nature of being human socially. We constantly compare and catalogue things in our minds, and typically want things we can’t or don’t have until we have them. But the grass isn’t always greener, and even if you had everything you wanted, I would be willing to bet that you still wouldn’t feel satisfied with yourself. Because peace comes from within, and no matter how many expensive shoes you own or how much money you have in the bank, it doesn’t reflect who you are inside, nor fill the emptiness you feel. So instead of comparing yourself to the masses, begin looking at how these differences make us unique. Cultivate your own personality and prospects and others tend to follow suite. Being comfortable in your own skin is the most attractive quality of all, and that’s something no one can take away from you unless you let them.
  11. Responsibility                                                                                                                                       Probably just about the most adult thing you can do is accept responsibility for your actions, behavior, and your happiness. And it's probably one of the most difficult things to do because it involves a lot of self-awareness, which takes loads of experience to really ferment properly. It's one of those valuable assets that a lot of people talk about doing but few people actually do. I hear people all of the time say things like, "Well, it's not MY fault he/she did that..." That being said, you're really only responsible for YOUR actions, not the actions of others, which makes it a bit easier. People may try to guilt trip or manipulate you into taking the blame for stuff you didn't do, but typically you know what you've done and what you haven't. And if you have done something you shouldn't have and feel lousy about it, see  #6. 
  12. Judging                                                                                                                                                          In a perfect world, we would all get along and ride unicorns into rainbows and not have jobs or credit card debt. But it's not a perfect world, and we're all a bunch of jerks. I would venture to say 99.99999% of us are guilty of this. That's right-- "judging." The worst of them all, really. Social media has really made it worse, because not only can we judge people, but we can judge them openly with little fear of repercussions for our wickedness. We wonder why so many kids are committing suicide after being bullied, yet we perpetuate a culture that lacks acceptance and is hypercritical of appearance or action. We disassociate the person with the image and in some messed-up way think they have no feelings or heart. Did anyone here NOT have an experience where someone put you down in high school? If so, you probably still remember how horrible you felt, and you probably cried in the bathroom, and someone probably saw you and made fun of you for crying. But even so, we judge people every day. We judge celebrities for the dress they wore to the Oscars, we judge people we see at the grocery store for being fat or too skinny, we judge people in broadcasting, we judge our peers....we judge, we judge, we judge. We think it's okay because we think they judge us, too, but what if they don't? What if we're just a bunch of judgmental, jealous jerks who put other people down just to make us feel better about ourselves? So stop judging so much, folks. Not only will possibly save a life, but you'll be well on your way to becoming the best person you can be!

Like I said, I don’t have all of the answers (nor should I.) But I think these are all valid things to think about and explore. What are some things you guys feel like you’re doing wrong right now? Or, a better question, what are some things you think you’re doing right? How are you winning at life? That may be the best place to start from, after all.

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