Benevolent Bullshitting

Not sure if good at bullshitting Or if i actually know what the fuck i'm  talking about - Not sure Fry - quickmeme

I was listening to a podcast the other day that was discussing ways to identify and avoid “bullshitting.” They made a clear distinction between what we refer to as bullshitting and lying. When you are lying, you know for a fact that what you are saying is untrue, but say it anyway for whatever reason. Bullshitting however, while often containing falsehoods, is different from lying in that the bullshitter does not know and/or care if what they are saying is true or not. In addition to that we often look at bullshitting as harmless, while we condemn liars.

The host of this podcast made an interesting point about what I’ve decided to call “benevolent bullshitting.” She brought up times in her life where she has exaggerated or embellished factual information in order to make a point or further an argument about something that she strongly believed in. They were categorizing this under the same umbrella term of bullshitting, but until then I had never really thought of it that way. Unfortunately I have definitely dabbled in this form of bullshitting more often than I’d like to admit.

Now that I’ve recognized this tendency in myself to support my point even when I may not actually have the facts to back it up, I wonder how often others do this as well. In the moment we feel justified in doing this. We are so desperate to change the mind of the person we are talking to. We are so sure that we are right. What is the harm then in exaggerating just a bit in order to get our point across, we ask ourselves. Looking back on the times when I have done this, I definitely think at the very least it has hurt my cause rather than helped it.

Not only are we being dishonest when we partake in benevolent bullshitting, we are doing a disservice to those we are talking to as well as to the issue we are attempting to bolster. If later it is found out that our assertions were unfounded, it could cause the other person to completely disregard all the other things we have said or will say in the future. They may become angry and write the issue off all together.

I am also a strong believer in being an example of what you’d like to see in the world. I certainly wouldn’t want the people I talk to to mislead me during our discussions. Therefore, why would I justify me doing the same to them? If I find myself in a situation where I cannot support my side of an issue honestly, then that’s a sign I need to do more research, not dig my heels in and continue trying to steamroll the other person into having the same opinion.

Knowing that I, myself, am a peddler of benevolent bullshit has helped me to be more cautious in conversation. I am more careful about what I say, but I am also more hesitant to take what the other person says at face value. I’m quite gullible and generally don’t consider that what someone says to me could very well be untrue, whether they realize it or not.

The phenomenon of benevolent bullshitting also highlights the discomfort we all seem to have about uncertainty or not knowing. Rather than being honest and admitting that we don’t know or have not heard the point the other side has just offered seems intolerable to us a lot of the time. Deep down it feels like we’ve lost the argument if we can’t rebut every comment immediately. However, when I am debating a topic with someone, I don’t ever feel as though I’ve “won” if they tell me they aren’t aware of the information I’m providing. To the contrary, I gain a lot of respect for someone that is able to do this.

The next time you are sharing your opinion or having a discussion with someone, try to be mindful of the temptation to partake in benevolent bullshitting. What might you decide to say instead? Can you get comfortable with admitting a certain degree of ignorance, even about an issue you’re passionate and knowledgeable about? Practice being humble enough to accept that you can’t be right all of the time. You can’t know everything. And that’s okay. Try to get curious when someone says something new or unexpected during a disagreement. Ask questions. Maybe you’ll learn something new! Which is always it’s own victory in my book. Perhaps you’ll even catch a bit of benevolent bullshitting from the other party, and get better at recognizing it.

Health, Illness, & Impermanence

You see this goblet? For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.

Achaan Chaa

If you are someone who is healthy and able bodied like me, take a moment to reflect on that fact. Even if you suffer from mental or physical illness or you are differently abled, consider all that you body is able to do for you every day. Most of us live our lives without ever thinking much about our health, until that health is threatened or lost. In the last two years, the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought health, as well as illness, to the forefront of our collective awareness. Now more than ever in my lifetime, I have been faced with the reality of uncertainty and impermanence.

Even now, it’s easy to imagine I will somehow be immune to things like serious illness, accidental bodily harm, aging, or death. Although, logically, I know these things can affect anyone at anytime, I can’t manage to wrap my head around that fact. I have been privileged so far in life. I’ve always had relatively good health. I was born healthy. I’ve never had to be admitted to the hospital. I’ve never even broken a bone! At worst, I’ve suffered strep throat, stomach bugs, and cuts and scrapes. I have all of my senses. I have all of my limbs.

I’ve been isolated and sheltered from the harsh realities of illness. I was too young to comprehend my grandfather dying of heart disease. My grandmother died quickly without much distress or struggle from cancer a few years ago. Other than that and the death of a handful of pets, suffering, sickness, and death haven’t yet touched my life. Because of this, I have been able to live oblivious to these painful experiences for the majority of my life. This has allowed me to disassociate from many of the darker aspects of living. However, I know no one will make it through there entire life unscathed. I think it’s important for me to face what I’ve managed to avoid for so long.

Most of the time, I insulate myself with reassurances such as a healthy lifestyle and “good” genetics. Rarely do I ever acknowledge that those things only get you so far. We feel shocked and unnerved when we hear stories about random accidents causing severe injury or death. We are horrified and fascinated by sudden diseases, infections, or afflictions that seem to have no clear cause or no way to predict. We have immense sympathy, but somehow still think, “Well, that could never happen to me.” Deep down we all know that every day, every moment is a roll of the dice.

I’m not trying to be a downer or a pessimist. I’m not saying that we should always be obsessing over the possibility of misfortune. What I am saying is that we should never lose sight of how impermanent this life is. The quote at the beginning of this post is an excellent way for us to conceptualize this. Imagine that everything you have is “already broken.” Then we will not be as shocked or devastated when it does eventually break. It is also a reminder to treat all of the amazing things in this life, including our incredible bodies, with tenderness and gratitude.

When we hold in our awareness the truth of impermanence, illness, and death, it allows us to more fully appreciate the good fortune we are enjoying right now. Yes, suffering will reach us all in our lives, but today we are alive! What a blessing to wake up and enjoy moving through the world with this strong, healthy, able body. What a precious miracle it is to be free from chronic pain or illness. Thinking of things in this way, realizing that we ourselves are “already broken” makes these moments that would normally be taken for granted, something to be overwhelmingly grateful for. Let’s make a practice of savoring these simple moments so that when the time comes we are able to let go with grace and equanimity.

How Meditation Can Help Manage Illness | Everyday Health

Trust and the Universe Will Provide

The other day, I was exposed to Covid and feared I would have to quarantine the very weekend my boyfriend was supposed to come home for a few days. I wrote a post about it earlier in the week, right before I went and got tested. In that post, my focus was on learning to sit with uncertainty. All at once, a four day weekend I had been looking forward to for over a month threatened to disappear in an instant. Not only had I been exposed to Covid, but there was a tornado near where Nate was away at training. Nate was sent home early, with the caveat that he may also have to go back early, spoiling our plans.

That night as I talked with Nate on the phone, I could hear the unrest and discomfort in his voice at all these sudden changes. Neither one of us knew what would happen in a few days time. I tried to remain hopeful while also making peace with the worst case scenario. No matter what the outcome was, I was prepared to stay positive. For the first time in a long time, I had complete faith that the universe would deliver me exactly where I needed to be, even if that wasn’t where I had wanted to go.

When I received my email with a negative test result yesterday evening, I felt overjoyed. At nearly the exact same time, I also got word from Nate that he would still be allowed to keep our plans. Not only that, but now we would have an extra day together. It felt as though the surface tension of uncertainty had finally broken. All was well. I was relieved, grateful, and even felt proud. I was proud of myself for being able to surrender to the unexpected. It felt as though my trust in the universe had resulted in a reward. When all these issues first arose, I told Nate that we had either been blessed or cursed. Only time would tell which. Turns out that we were blessed.

I feel so reassured and even emboldened by the events of the last few days. I had been able to surrender to the universe, to the unknown, and I had been rewarded for my faith. Normally it is quite hard for me to lean into unexpected situations. But this experience has taught me an invaluable lesson: that it is okay to trust. I have everything that I need. I have always had everything that I need. I will always have everything that I need. The universe has and continues to take such excellent care of me. I am so grateful.

Tess Whitehurst – Good Vibe Tribe – Weekly Affirmation – I trust the  Universe to perfectly unfold

Sitting with Uncertainty

In the digital age accessing information is faster and easier than ever. No matter what question you may find yourself asking, you’ll likely be able to google it and receive an answer, or at least more information, in a matter of seconds. While this is extremely satisfying and a great benefit to society in many ways, like anything, it also has it’s down side. Uncertainty has always made us comfortable, and for good reason. Uncertainty leaves us vulnerable, to the elements, to predators, etc. Knowing is always safer than not knowing.

Unfortunately, despite all the benefits we receive from technology, it also has created even more discomfort around uncertainty. It has become nearly intolerable, for even a short length of time. We have developed a sense of entitlement to information. It is overwhelmingly frustrating when we can’t find that instant gratification.

My first real encounter with the idea that people hate not knowing was when I became a vegan. Despite the fact that I certainly didn’t know anything about veganism before becoming a vegan and doing hours upon hours of research, random people in my life still liked to assume they knew more about it than me. I began to notice that people get aggressive when you challenge their knowledge on any topic, even one they have little to no interest in. It’s also rare, regardless of what you’re asking, that someone will answer honestly with: I don’t know. We all want to believe we know everything or at least present that all-knowing façade to others.

The recent Covid-19 pandemic has once again highlighted humanity’s fear of uncertainty. Almost as soon as people started discussing the virus, everyone wanted to pretend that they new the latest and most accurate information. You still see thousands of people proclaiming to know more about this new virus than the doctors and scientists that are studying it. You can see the reluctance people have to even acknowledge that experts know more than they do. In addition to that we are constantly asking ourselves and those around us, when will this end? Even though we all know that no one knows the answer to that question.

I’m sure on a smaller scale, you are able to recognize your own discomfort with not knowing in your day to day life. This is one of the reasons why we are so upset when things don’t go as planned. Today in particular I am getting the chance to practice sitting with uncertainty. When I woke up this morning, it was just another day. I was looking forward to having appointments scheduled at work, seeing our new intern, and marking off another day before my boyfriend comes home for the holiday weekend.

As I was leaving, I noticed a group text from my boss, but didn’t think much of it. I assumed it was something I could look at later when I got a chance. When I got to the office, my friend told me that text was telling us our new therapist tested positive for Covid despite being vaccinated, and that now we had to get tested and work from home until further notice. This caused a lot of mixed feelings for me. Part of me was happy. I’ve been hoping I would get to work from home again. However, another part of me was terribly angry.

I knew it was no one’s fault, but I couldn’t help myself from arbitrarily assigning blame, to my coworkers, the government, the school systems, even (and perhaps especially) myself for not being more cautious. Normally I would be elated at the idea of isolating myself for a few weeks, but not this week. Tomorrow I had planned to finally start a podcast with my two best friends. Now that would have to be postponed, unless I am able to somehow get a negative test result by the morning.

To my horror, I also realized that this may completely derail my plans to see my boyfriend. We certainly won’t be able to go out to all the vegan restaurants we had planned to go to. Nor will we be able to go out to the state parks and hike like we had planned. I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to see Nate at all. We are both vaccinated, but if I test positive or can’t get my results in time, will he want to risk seeing me regardless? Should I even let him? I would hate to jeopardize the training he is doing for his job. I have no idea what it would mean for him if he tested positive while staying in a dorm at a college campus. Would he have to resign from the rest of the training?

I woke up this morning feeling confident, collected, certain of what my day would hold. Now that certainty has turned into a churning mental storm of questions and concern. I’m doing my best to stay positive. Life is full of uncertainty and I am lucky that the curve ball thrown at me today wasn’t something worse. I could have had a car accident on my way to the office. Someone I love could have been hurt or killed suddenly. I could have not woken up at all. Instead I was given a gentle, although inconvenient, reminder that things don’t always go as planned.

Rather than slip into irritation and despair, I am going to use this experience to practice patience. I’m going to let it be a reminder of all that I have to be grateful for, of how fortunate I’ve been to not even have to be tested until now, to be privileged enough to have been vaccinated, to live alone so I don’t have to worry about exposing my loved ones, to have an employer that will allow me to work from home, and perhaps most importantly, for this young, healthy, strong body. Today is also a lesson, teaching me that anything can be a blessing if you choose to see it that way.

What You Should Know About COVID-19 | Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Hesitation & Uncertainty in Love

I’ve been dating someone now for a couple of months. It’s the first time in years that I’ve had a partner and on paper he’s absolutely perfect. He’s handsome, smart, progressive, atheist, and vegan. He reads, dresses well, lives a healthy lifestyle, and is always trying to make me happy. We agree on practically everything. We’ve never had an argument. We’ve recently even started saying, “I love you.” Everything is picture perfect. We make a very handsome couple.

Yet hesitation still lingers in my heart. This always happens. I get excited, then I worry I’ve rushed in too quickly. I start picking at every little thing. Such as the question of whether or not he’s funny. Being able to have that easy, witty banter with someone is very important to me. And while he checks an unbelievable amount of boxes when it comes to what I want in a partner, he has yet to check that one. It still feels like we’re nervous and awkward around one another. I keep waiting for us to become more comfortable, but we never seem to make much progress. I know that’s partially because he lives so far away and we don’t get to spend that much time with one another. Part of me fears that we may never find that easy companionship with one another though. Is he not funny because he’s nervous or holding back? Or will he genuinely never make me laugh? Is it wrong to continue on feeling this hesitancy? With everything else that is so amazing about him, does he also have to be funny?

If love is supposed to feel the same each time, regardless of who you are in love with, then I may be making a mistake. However, not being well versed in the art of love, I wonder if maybe each love has a different flavor and flow to it. That is what I hope for. Because I desperately want to be in love with him. He does bring me great happiness. He makes me want to be a better person. I enjoy talking with him. I miss him when he’s gone. I’m sad when he is too busy to text me all day. Is it okay to be cautious in love? Does love have layers? These and so many others are the questions I don’t have answers for, that I find myself having to face alone, too fearful to share my doubts with my partner.

In my past love, everything came naturally. It always felt easy, passionate, overwhelming, magical. Is it possible to build those aspects of a relationship over time? Or are they things that are either there or not? Is it okay to continue on being unsure? This is one of the reasons I have always been interested in polyamory. Nate may not be perfect for me in every single way, but he is perfect for me in a lot of very important ways. I don’t want to have to pick and choose what I’m willing to live without from my one and only partner. No one is going to be everything I need. But it’s hard for me to tell which of my needs should outweigh others. I always end up focusing on the areas that aren’t right rather than the ones that are.

If I knew I was free to have other partners to fill my other needs, I wouldn’t be having this difficult conversation with myself at all. I would more easily be able to love and admire him for who he is rather than worry about who he’s not. I could have one partner that is hilarity and passion, and another that is tenderness and safety. It seems unfair and unrealistic to expect one person to be absolutely everything you need. I feel so conflicted. I feel so guilty for feeling conflicted. I genuinely don’t know what the right thing to do is.

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Sinking Ship

This year my place of employment took a huge hit financially. The state drastically cut our funding. On top of that we haven’t really been able to fundraise like we normally do because of Covid. It seems like everyone has been staying pretty positive on the surface. Up until recently I’ve just been trying not to think about it and hoping it will all turn out okay somehow. This place has been around for over 11 years after all. But with our therapist leaving for another job this August, I’m really starting to wonder if I should be exploring other job options too.

I really would like to stay here forever. I’ve said that many times, but it’s true. This place is better than I ever imagined any job could be. I actually look forward to coming here everyday. I feel like I’m just spending time with friends most days. However, I know that’s going to change somewhat without our current therapist being here. It’s really going to be sad to see her go. I hope that we’ll be able to remain friends, but she seems so busy and I’ve never been good at maintaining friendships in the past.

Mostly I am starting to wonder if I should go back to actively pursuing a teaching job. I did pay quite a pretty penny for the certification that I’ll have to be renewing here in a few months. I’m not sure that I would enjoy being a teacher as much as I enjoy being an advocate here, but it would still be nice to get summers off. Not to mention I’d get paid a hell of a lot more, plus better benefits and job security.

Honestly money has never been a big motivator to me though. I seem to be doing just fine with the ridiculously low wages I’ve always made so far. It’s much more important for me to like my job than to make a lot of money. I hardly ever feel like spending more than I need for the bare necessities anyway. The people I work with here understand me and appreciate me, oftentimes more than I feel I even deserve. I truly feel blessed to work with such incredible human beings. Which also makes the thought of leaving hard in another sense as well. I don’t want to put them in an even shittier position by abandoning them in their hour of need.

It really feels like standing on the deck of a sinking ship, trying to decide what to do next. The hardest part is I’m not sure that the ship will really go down or if we can salvage it. I suppose that my plan for now will be to ride it out. I refuse to give up on this place. It’s simply too amazing. I’ll do what I have to do to keep my teaching certification in the meantime, but I won’t worry about applying for any more teaching jobs. Then if in a few years this place does go under, I’ll become a substitute teacher while I search for a permanent position. Hopefully, in the end all of this worrying will have been for nothing.

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Nothing to Fear

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

I find myself wondering about my anxiety a lot. It seems like it never leaves me. But at the same time, aren’t I always looking for it? Checking around my inner corners even in calm moments, hoping not to find it lurking there. Sometimes I wonder if me and my anxiety have become somewhat codependent. Who would I even be without this constant nervous, fearful energy inside? It feels like a core part of my existence. To be alive is to be anxious. At least that’s what it feels like for me.

Anxiety has started to feel like just another part of my rigid routine. Wake up, make coffee, start worrying about everything and nothing at the same time. I’m so used to feeling this way that often it helps to just try to pinpoint exactly what I’m anxious about. Normally it’s nothing specific, just a vague cloud shaped ball of static inside me, flashing at intervals that seem to spell out in morse code: DANGER. But when I search my heart and mind for the monsters and find none are really there, for a moment that cloud dissipates.

It’s exhausting and time consuming to keep going through that check list in my head though. That list of what I’m worried about and why it’s actually okay. It’s almost like OCD actually. I feel like I need to keep checking that I’m not forgetting anything, that my life is in order, before I can relax for even a moment. It’s starting to feel more and more like the reason I’m anxious a lot of the time is simply because I was anxious at this time yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. My brain no longer searches for something to trigger anxiety, it just has itself set that way by default.

It always comes back down to trust. Can I trust myself? That I’m doing everything I need to do? Can I trust the universe when some things are out of my hands? I’m wary of that trust. I’m always afraid that if I allow myself to just trust, I will have been foolish to do so. I’m worried that when things fall apart again one day, I will blame myself. I’ll say if only I had paid more attention. If only I hadn’t let myself relax, and trust that I was doing enough.

I guess that’s just an excuse though. I’ll always find a way to blame myself when things go wrong. I think in some ways it helps to blame ourselves. It gives us the illusion that we are in control, that we have complete power over every situation. But in the end we know that isn’t true. That’s why we need to be able to trust. So that we can find the strength, the courage to keep going despite that uncertainty, that lack of control.

Anxiety is a signal. It tells us that something is wrong. It promises to go away once we are safe again, once we fix whatever problem there is. The issue is that anxiety never tells us what the problem actually is. In nature, it would be obvious, whatever is threatening your very life at that moment. But in modern society, it is much harder to tell where the danger is. If it’s even there at all. It makes me feel like a wild animal. On edge, looking around wildly, searching for the threat, searching for a way to escape. There is nothing more difficult that overriding your bodies natural impulses. But that’s what I’m asking myself to do every day. I have to keep telling this frightened animal inside not to run, when everything it knows is pleading, begging it to run. It’s a constant wrestling match between my body’s wisdom and the thinking mind. It’s no wonder I am always so tired. Sometimes it seems like all I can do is keep telling myself: It’s okay to feel anxious.

It’s okay to feel anxious.

It’s okay to feel anxious.

It’s okay to feel anxious…