Category Archives: kindness

I’m too young to have teenagers and too old to do it?

Turns out, if you raise kids, one day they become teenagers. Trust me. It happens. I feel like it has not been long enough since they were born. How is it my eldest completed his first set of highschool exams? I’m typing listening to him and his friends celebrate the successful completion of thier grade 9 exams. They are all lovely humans who make me laugh. So nerdy, so into games and each other. It really does make my heart swell 2 sizes.

I also find teenagers EXHAUSTING. They talk & move fast. They eat every 90 minutes or so and enjoy teasing each other and anyone else in the vicinity. They wrestle & grapple and sit on each other. They have no sense of personal space with each other yet refuse to cuddle with me on the couch. The contradictions pile up.

Then there is the smell. It’s part cumin, part parmesan cheese and a bit of old hockey equipment. My kids don’t even play hockey. What is that about? Fungus? I know they showered! We even do a smell test to make sure they’ve used soap. We praise them for not smelling bad. We just want neutral smells now, once we wanted them to smell good. You have to set the bar to achievable goals and neutral is a stretch most days.

Don’t get me started with the music. The youngest among us could name every song that played on the radio on Saturday. I honestly couldn’t tell the songs apart. When did I get so old? I’m 39 for crying out loud. I actually do try to keep up, I at least know who Imagine Dragons are, well, I know their song “Radioactive”. I’m calling that a win.

I bought a slackline so we could work on balance together. I also know I won’t be doing this anytime soon: http://youtu.be/TvlQIccOd50 I was pretty pumped about being able to stand on it for a moment when the kids went right to walking and skittering back and forth, first try!

I have friends my age with toddlers. My partner and I decided to have our kids when we were young so that we could keep up. That was silly. I’m sorry to inform you THERE IS NO KEEPING UP. To those who will be even older than I when your teenagers arrive, may your deity have mercy on you and give you help.

There are occasional moments when I can sprint along with them but I need days to recover. I love my kids’ friends and I want everyone to feel welcome but I must be making the curmudgeon face by mistake. They often ask me when they need to leave. I’m happy they’re here, I’m just old and ornery.

I think I'm way cool, turns out I'm not!

I think I’m way cool, turns out I’m not!

I make up for it by offering pie after a big breakfast (sorry to their parents) and by giving them the space to do their thing. I try not to meddle and let them work out conflicts but it seems a bit beyond me to grasp all that is happening in my kids lives right now.

On the one hand I’m on the young side to have teenagers but on the other I feel just a tad too old to be keeing up with them.

Extend the tentacle

We have a saying in our family, I think it came from my beloved, “extend the tentacle of friendship”. I love that it implies a few things, the first being that each of us is a gooey mess, like the creatures in Galaxy Quest. Also that someone seeing the tentacle would actually allow it to touch them, which makes prospective new friends very brave. Lastly, octopus can grow back a tentacle if it’s chopped off making the risk very low if a person responds negatively to my tenuous & awkward attempt at a broken but rewarding friendship.

Assholes are notorious at failing to make friends so the alien/octopus image should allow you to see you aren’t that bad and maybe someone will extend the tentacle of friendship back to you. Try it. You might just like it.

Be enthusiastic

Please stop being the killjoy, The Negative Nellie, the naysayer. I know, you think you are doing us all a favour, saving us from our ineptitude. You want to prepare us for the worst. Sadly, only assholes shoot down great things their friends are doing. Now, being only recently reformed from my naysayer ways, I understand and I’m here to help.

One thing that may trigger the killjoy repsonse is feeling a teensie bit of jealousy. Yuck.

Here’s a test: Your vegan-who-eats-only-local-in-season-food friend has just told you about knitting with dog hair.

Big Loud Mean Voice That is some crazy ass shit right there.

You just failed the test. Let’s revisit. Word by word.

I say “vegan” and you might think “dang, that tempeh is still in the fridge. I think I was going to skewer it. shit.” Then you contemplate local and in season and remember you promised to join the food co-op and radically shift how food comes to your table. A bit of carbon guilt and wincing at eating deep fried chicken that ended up making you sick. See how this is not about your friend? Yes, your friend. You, the asshole, have A FRIEND.

By some goddamn miracle you have been gifted with someone’s affection, however tenuous, and they sound pretty interesting. They sound like someone who makes decisions in line with their values and you being their friend was one of them. So buck up buttercup, the nice lady was telling you about her dog hair knitting project. You say?

Big Loud Mean Voice Does it come with a flea collar?

Ok, we have some work to do, granted, and I’m itching a lot thinking about a dog hair sweater. Wasn’t a hair shirt a torture device? or some weird suffering shit? GAH. Must keep friend!

If all else fails I go back to “Tell me more about that” or some variation of “yes, and”.

“I’ve heard about people knitting with dog hair (that’s the yes/affirming part of your response), and I’ve always wondered about how the hair is made into yarn (invitation for them to say more)”

See that was easy, if a bit scratchy. Face to face is tough, what with all the scratching induced by the idea of a dog hair sweater.

Big Loud Mean Voice See I told you, crazy ass shit.

So you may want to practice being enthusiastic via social media or on the phone. Choose to be the cheerleader in  your friend’s life. Chances are they have naysayers a plenty but very few people who just say “you rock” or “I love your tattoo” or “You are really creative” or “You can totally handle this”.

It’s your friend. You are neither parent nor therapist.(remember about giving feedback ) If they say something that is worrisome, that’s a whole other thing, muddle through the best you can, they’re your friend despite you being a bit of an asshole so, you know, they see the best in you too. Try to live up to that and things will be fine.

Don’t worry about the pompoms but start thinking about how you can be more enthusiastic, more of a cheerleader. It turns out it’s a lot of fun and she probably won’t give you the dog hair sweater, that’s for her mom.

Moooohahahahahahahah

care for a living thing

One way to be less of an asshole is to start caring for living things other than yourself, this is called “nurturing”, not to be confused with the tone of this post, that’s called “patronizing”. Assholes are patronizing & self-centred so by looking outwards you can slowly, gently, begin to shift your focus out, a little bit. Be nice to yourself here, this is hard, way harder than even being nice to yourself so that’s saying something.

Now, if you are way down the asshole spectrum don’t start with a mammal or a reptile or even a fish or an insect. If you are more than say, 90% asshole, you need to set yourself up for success, start with a plant. Maybe try sprouting a carrot top then move on to a houseplant. Don’t pick a fussy houseplant, try something easy, like a spider plant. If you have any friends (remember this part is for folks who self-identify as 90% asshole so friends may be a little scarce on the ground, don’t worry, one day we’ll talk about friends) they may be looking to give away plants or, this time of year, there are lots of houseplants in your favourite community classifieds for cheap or free. The dang things are alive and one day you may need to gift the offspring before the foliage comes after you in a Day of the Triffids nightmare.

day of the triffeds

For those of us assholes who are capable of watering a plant on a semi regular basis you know the dangers of too much love. Admit it, the leaves all turned brown and your first plant died because you over watered it, another dried out to a husk due to utter neglect. That’s why you start with a plant, it limits the ethical problems of your broken love and commitment issues.

Big Loud Mean Voice (BLMV): For the love of all that is good and green on this earth do not start with a cat or a dog!

She has a point, it may seem like a good idea but seriously, nothing brings out your asshole side more than a cat who shit in your shoe or a dog who ate your couch. Start small. Maybe volunteer at an animal shelter or be a respite foster volunteer, or just donate some food and money until you nail this caring for a potted plant thing.

This is where I need to warn you, once one plant actually thrives in your care you will want more. Just looking at green things improves mental health.

BLMV: There are studies, go find them yourself, I’m not your mother!

It really does. Next thing you find yourself learning which way your windows face and what plants will survive. You might even be compelled to help plant trees and other things that nice people do, with others. You may even make some friends and they don’t know you are an asshole so bring your A game and give being slightly less of a curmudgeon a try.

Now here’s the problem, you likely already have living things in your care. A pet or a person and I know you are thinking “I fucking killed the PLANT!” but don’t worry, your patronizing asshole friend is here to say I did it and you can too.

Make one new commitment to care better for your living thing right now. Walk the dog, brush the cat, make the coffee, well, maybe buy the coffee supplies, let’s stay realistic. Afterall, success really counts here when we move beyond plants and the ethical implications of neglect are not funny.

Do it again tomorrow and once it’s easy, try adding something else. One day you may wake up and realise you are a bit better partner to your beloved, a better parent, a better pet owner and a little less of an asshole.

teacup planters

You start by being nicer to yourself

Brace yourself, big shock, really hard to be nice if you are an asshole to yourself. This took me about 10 years to discover. If you’ve ever done therapy or support group type things the advice they tell you is to re-write all the negative messages you give yourself. This is hard. I mean, ridiculously hard, because of course when you catch yourself saying mean things in your head you follow-up with a little insult. For me it typically goes like this:

Big Loud Mean Voice (BLMV): Well, no one cares what you have to say so why start a blog, idiot.

Quiet Doubting Voice (QDV): ah fuck, I am so mean, I need to stop beating myself up.

BLMV: See, can’t even do that right

QDV: Crap

BLMV: delete that, stupid

And on and on it goes, all day long, so you get lots of practise, skads of practise. In fact, you get so good at being your own number one critic it makes it really easy to do that to other people. Next thing you know you’re saying Big Mean Loud Voice out loud, to other people, because they too can benefit from your wisdom.

BLMV: I can’t beleive she said that, what an idiot.

This, my friends, is how one can become quite an asshole. I remind myself that this was my number one way of interacting with the world when I was a teen. Being catty and mean meant I had less time to turn that inward. So I try to be compassionate to others when they say mean things to me, I once was Queen of Meandom, now I just travel through from time to time.

I hadn’t realised I had changed until a friend, a few years back, stated I was the nicest person she knew.

Pardon? NO, not me, I’m really mean, actually. I flushed red, embarrassed. She insisted that I did things that nice people did, like complement others, smile, hug and laugh. Turns out, along the way of fighting my depression and inner critic, I’d become a bit nicer to others too. Huh.

BLMV: took you long enough

Ok, so BLMV is still,like, 10% of my inner voice and, sometimes, she is fucking HILARIOUS. Some of my best laughs come from her, but she’s only funny in small doses. When Big Loud Mean Voice is your whole world, life is dang depressing and awful.

Speaking with another friend (I have lots of amazing people in my life, I’ve fooled them into thinking I’m not a total asshole) about my whole self compassion thing she said I was a Buddhist. I laughed. Buddhists are nice people and I’m only just starting to be nice so I couldn’t imagine that they would be up for an asshole to hang out with. After a few months though, I read about Buddhism and a central theme seems to be compassion, for yourself, and others. So I’m going to go hang with some this afternoon. Maybe their niceness will rub off on me.