Afflicting the Comfortable

I heard a quote yesterday during a conference. The key note speaker called it out as his favorite quote. We “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

I just saw a friend on twitter lament over a post on facebook asking “why does everything have to be about race?”

And…yeah. Because it is. But it’s a really uncomfortable reality, isn’t it? When you are the comfortable and not the afflicted and everyone wants to talk about the injustice that people who look like you perpetrate on people who look like them?

I wrote the posts about my dad a couple nights ago because I was really upset. I was really upset about the turn that conversation took. But, at the end of the day, I know my father loves me. I know that, for the most part, he’s a decent person. I was never abused or lacked for anything. I have had a very comfortable life with all my needs and most of my wants addressed.

So it makes me uncomfortable when I have to face the imperfections of my parents. When I have to face the fact that, as their daughter, my power to change them is limited. That my ability to cry and get what i want out of them stopped a long time ago.

i’ve had my dad unfollowed on facebook for years now. Started during the original Obama presidential campaign. He’s a conservative republican and a troll, so his posts hit ALL my buttons.

A cousin of mine likes to get into it with him. He’s like, the liberal version of my dad. Loves to get into the weeds of a political debate. My late husband was kind of like that, until there was a big family blow up that caused a rift and then we all decided never to speak about politics or racism again.

Anyway, so my cousin posted something the other day – about racism in America. Calling out the hypocrisy of people up in arms about a guy taking a knee during the national anthem, but seemingly unperturbed by the many guys getting shot by police without cause.

My dad commented that he took offense to the post. ‘Cause America is the greatest country in the world, y’all!

I sent my cousin a private message. I wanted to make sure he knew my dad mostly likes just getting a rise out of people and conveyed that I was impressed he (my cousin) put up with my dad’s bullshit so frequently.

My cousin wrote back:
“it’s funny because it’s exactly the same with my dad. Anyway, I think your dad and I still respect each other, we just have vastly different views. Most of that generation have bought into a political and cultural narrative [as immigrants]that they feel defines their love for this country. I think it’s possible to still love my country while recognizing its flaws and fighting to make it better for people who aren’t as fortunate as the rest of us. Your dad and my dad are good hearted and intelligent people, they’re just very much in a bubble and poking holes in that makes them very uncomfortable. So, we get on each other’s case sometimes, but I think we also both enjoy the reparte.”

Until …probably some time around the Pulse shooting in Orlando, I would nearly always run away from a fight. Until then, I would choose to disengage rather than engage with people who made me uncomfortable with their willingness to get me to the point of rage with their debate. I learned this from my interactions with my dad.

It is a lot easier to remember that i love him very much when we don’t engage in the conversations that make me want to use life’s “block” button on him. To paraphrase from my cousin, I think it’s possible to still love my dad while recognizing his flaws…I just stopped short of the fight to make him better.

Slowly but surely I’ve been a little more vocal on the topics that matter to me that are sometimes the very same ones I used to keep quiet on. But I guess I’d rather go head to head in a debate with someone on Fetlife than risk losing my relationship with my family. I don’t have so much invested here. I’m able to stay comfortable.

The turn the conversation with my dad took the other night definitely afflicted my comfort zone.

I still don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe that’s a good thing.


Shards of Glass

There’s a quote on the white board in the office break room by Carl Jung:

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

I mean, I kinda raised an eyebrow when I read that this morning as I filled my coffee cup for the third time. What was the office manager trying to say, that we annoy her?  That we annoy each other?

Was it passive aggressive commentary about our boss?  (Probably).

But, it’s true.  The thing about what annoys us about others really being about us.  About our own issues, hangups, insecurities. It’s probably why I’m nonplussed about trolls in my comments. They don’t bother me ’cause I don’t require everyone to agree with me in order to feel confident about my opinion being my own.

Like yesterday when someone decided that I’d “settled” because I’m dating somebody poly.

Whatevs, dude. I know me and I know my partner and I know that neither of us feels like we’ve “settled” on anything. The opinion of a stranger who knows neither of us isn’t enough to make me feel insecure enough to get into a shouting match with him.  Let him think I’ve settled. What’s it to me?

(This is probably why I don’t really get many trolls in my posts.  I starve them.)

But if it *had* annoyed me, if it had enraged me that someone would think (or publicly say) such a thing about me, then what it’s really saying is that I either A) am not as confident about my relationship as I claim to be, or B) am not as self-reliant on validation as I’ve worked so hard to become.

And I certainly don’t need a “personal army” of fetlifers to come to my rescue when someone says something mean about me.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this blog.  The point of this blog is to share a metaphor about introspection and self-work that I came up with this morning that tickled me in the clever place.

It’s about identifying when something is about *you* and doing the work to make positive changes in your life, rather than continuing to exhibit negative behaviors in response to things that annoy you.

For context, it was in response to someone seeking advice on how to overcome the negative behaviors associated with their self-acknowledged distrust/jealousy/and control issues.

Here was my metaphor:

The more you dig into the cause of your distrust/jealousy/controlling impulses, the closer you’ll get to overcoming it. It’s kinda like….let’s say you have foot pain. Like, it’s bugging you. Severe, effing, foot pain. You can complain about it and you can walk around limping, or hopping, or constantly try to relieve the foot pain by soaking it in epsom salts.

Or you can investigate the source of the foot pain. Find that you have a tiny shard of glass stuck in the bottom of your heel. Your skin has calloused over it so it’s tough to reach, but that’s why every step you take hurts.

With enough exfoliation, and maybe a pair of pointy tweezers or a needle, you can get that shard out. And, while the relief won’t be instantaneous (it’ll be sore for a while), there will be some relief and the more you carry on without that shard the better it gets.

Sometimes my metaphors run away from me. What I’m trying to say is, when you find the source of your jealousy/insecurity, you can start doing the work to address why you behave the way you do, rather than behaving the way you do to address the insecurity itself.

Earlier today a fet friend of mine wrote something about a step she’s taken in her journey to overcome self-hatred.  She said that where she once felt very free with using the word “hate” in connection with her feelings about herself, she’s now finding that she no longer wants to hate herself.

I told her that was a huge step.  She’s not only identified that there’s a shard of glass embedded in her heel, she’s also decided that she no longer wants to live with the glass in there.

The only thing left is to start doing the work to get it out; but, much like they say in AA that acceptance is the first step – I feel like deciding to *do* something about it is a great leap forward.

I’m a big advocate for personal growth. The term used to have such a new-age-crunchy-granola-bar-eye-rolling connotation to me, but now that I’ve actually experienced it for myself; I think what personal growth really means is self empowerment.

No more limping.

Finding the source of your pain is one thing.  Deciding you want to start living without it is everything.