Inside the Thought Machine: Page 17

If we think about it, everyone knows the basic rules to live a good life. We know how to eat and sleep. We know that our body has needs. The mind has needs too.
Everybody knows the dignity of a handshake. We know that a person’s word is a person’s word, which ties to the old question or saying, “If you don’t have your word, then what do you have?”
It’s a good question.
If you’re not being you, then who are you being?
And why?

We learn valuable things when we are young. We learn to share. For the most part, we are taught a few simple things: Don’t hit. Don’t hurt anyone and if you do, say “Sorry.”
Take turns.
Hold hands when you cross the street and play fair.
No cheating.
I was inspired by this years ago when reading a book by Robert Fulghum. He was right, all we need to know in life are lessons that we learn in Kindergarten. Someday, somehow, I will thank Fulghum for this one day.
Fulghum talks about how cookies and milk are a good thing. While I do admit to my love for cookies, I am now and will always be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich fan with either grape or strawberry and creamy peanut butter. If given the choice, this would be my after “Nap-time” snack.

I am a fan and true believer of a wholesome core. This is us or should I say this is “The true” us before status came along and our ego took shape. There was a time when we did not recognize differences or race. There was a time when all we wanted to do was play. No, really. This is true. Hatred is taught. Judgments are taught. The trick becomes this: How do we unlearn all the toxic lessons we’ve been taught?

I find myself here at a different level of awareness. As I sit here with you, I feel the need to strip away all the useless layers that have cloaked my true self. I want to be rid of all of the useless layers of protection and revisit my true self.

I think about the Golden rule to treat people fairly. This is a philosophy to treat people the way you would like to be treated. Imagine that?
Treat people the way you would like to be treated . . .
What an interesting idea.

I think about the so-called “Sniff Test” and the standards we set for other people. And I wonder something. Could we pass our own test?
Do we hold people to the same or different standards?
Or do we excuse ourselves for the same mistakes while condemning others?

I am a person who has been learning to live with myself for a very long time. Well, I’ve been doing this for 49 years to be exact. I have held myself to different standards. There are times when I have condemned myself. I have been through bouts of depression where I did nothing else but persecute me and kept myself from the possibility of improvement. Put simply, I beat myself up far more than anyone else has ever beat me.

I write this as a person who has been convicted and sentenced by me, and both jailed and kept in solitary confinement. As prisoner and warden, I never knew that it was me who had the keys to my freedom. It was the cogs and springs in the thought machine that kept churning me. I had to free myself from this, but this took work.

By now, we all know the obvious. We have learned how to navigate through different social settings. We know the basic rules of etiquette. Say please. Say thank you. Hold the door for the person behind you. Always wash your hands. And don’t take the last bite of food. Offer this up to the person you love. Trust me, the value of this is worth more than gold.

Simple things are perhaps obvious but they are still true. Say, “Excuse me” and be polite. But in all fairness, the world is not so polite. It is easy to lose sight of the rules we’ve been taught. It’s easy to forget to be selfless when the world appears to be a selfish place.

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

I have seen this saying and as simple as it is, there are basic complications that go overlooked. There are the historic memories of the times when someone was unkind to us. There are the memories when someone had a laugh at our expense. There are times when we were pointed at or picked on and we thought to ourselves, “Never again!”
There are details of when we played fairly or when we shared yet the people we shared with were not reciprocal. There were times when we felt left out. There are times when we were happy to share and then hurt when nothing came back to us.
There are times when we trusted and found ourselves humiliated. And there are times when we shared and we gave and we found ourselves on the foolish end of an unfair relationship.

Why share if no one else does?
Why be good if no one else is?

There was a farm in upstate New York. I write about this place often. I lived here with approximately 45 to 50 other people. All of us were there for similar reasons yet, each and every person was there for a reason of their own. Maybe the reason was behavioral. Maybe there was a legal problem. Maybe the reason was for a transformational change. Or, maybe the reason was all of the above, including a substance or alcohol abuse problem.
More or less, the farm was a therapeutic community. There were rules here. There was something called “House principles,” which meant that we had to follow these rules. Otherwise, there was a confrontation. And the confrontations sucked! This happened in front of the entire community. This meant a public reprimand. However, house rules related to house living. The intention was to teach us how to live in the real world. But house rules only applied to house living and thus, people left and the house principles stayed behind them. Some of them died because of this. 

I was several months into my stay on the farm. And I admit it, I drank the Kool-Aid. I resisted for as long as I could but eventually, I gave in. I followed the rules and I walked the line. I believed in the principles. I believed in the people who taught them to me. I believed and at the time, I would have done anything to prove my loyalty. I would have given my life to what they taught me.

I was not perfect by any means but I was true to my word. And I assumed everyone else was too.
I put the people who taught on a pedestal. I held them up to such a high standard and I never realized that they were human too. I never thought that they struggled or they had moments of doubt.
But even if they did, even if the people who were teaching me how to live were in doubt of themselves, I figured if anyone could, they would know how to navigate away from this. They wouldn’t quit. They wouldn’t give in. They certainly wouldn’t lie or go back to an old way of living.

When the people I held in high regard became human and when I found out they had dishonesties and imperfections, I suppose I was angry. I suppose I was angry because I needed them to fill a certain position. I was disappointed. I was pissed off because I believed in them and they let me down.
(Or so I thought.)
Suddenly, all of the good they had done for me and all of the reasons why I sincerely loved them vanished because I found out that they were human too.

When we think about the different stations of the family tree, where do we place our parents?
What do we assume about the roles of a Mother or Father?
Mom always knows best, right?
A Father’s role is what we are taught. And the same applies to motherhood.

We forget one simple thing. Moms and Dads are human too. They have thoughts and feelings and flaws. Just like we do. Yet, most people hold their parents to an unreal standard and we become angry when we find out they’re only human. This often comes later in life when our parents are aged and humbled and the role reversal of who’s in charge is blurred by unfortunate things, like medical situations.

There has to come a time when the realization of hierarchy is counterproductive. People are only people, which means people are capable of mistakes. Respect is living and breathing and cannot survive in a vacuum.

From what I see, almost everyone has a secret or two. No one is so high and mighty. Yet, we hold people in such regard as if we need them to fill a certain role.
This way we can believe that life can be good. That people can be good. But people are good. I meet great people every day. I meet people who aren’t great too. However, my judgment was always the problem. 

I had an opinion of what a professional should be. I had an opinion of what a good person would do. I also have opinions of what love is and what hate is. But then I learned these opinions are only concepts that belong to me. 

I may not live in a glass house but I know that I can’t throw stones. I know about the pot calling the kettle black. I know that most people who judge others would never pass their own test. But more, I know that all of this is a distraction that kept me from being my best possible self. 

I know that there are good people. And yes, there are bad ones too. Safe to say that in my life, I have been both. Safe to say that at this point, I want to choose a path that leads me back to a better time or what was a happier time.
I want to be happy. I want to play fairly. I want to hold hands. I don’t want to fight anymore. I want to get rid of judgment because to me, I have seen enough wars, both personal and interpersonal. I have seen what unhappiness is and as a result, I have seen the aftermath and felt the results. 

No, I don’t expect the world will play fair because I’ve asked for this. And not everyone will share either. But in my heart, I know that I was happier when I lived this way. I know that I was happier when I took turns and shared. I know that when someone cheated or when someone was unfair, I learned not to play with them anymore. But if they apologized and if they played fairly, they’d be welcomed back.

One of the biggest crimes we’ve allowed in our lives are the crimes we’ve committed against ourselves. This is when we’ve allowed the darkness of others to dim the brightness of ourselves. This is when we’ve allowed someone’s doubt to steal our hope. This is when we’ve let the cruelness of others steal the kindness in our hearts.

Lesson learned:
Never forget to step down from the podium.
After all, we’re all human and it’s dangerous to forget this.
Above all, never put people on a pedestal.
Never hold someone’s success accountable for your survival.
You might find out they’re only human too
(and then you’ll give in).

Above all else:
Be you.
It’s the one thing we can do perfectly. 

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