1. You don’t need to have stuff in common – other than your shared humanity – in order to interact with people and (even) be friends with people.

Common background or common interests or a common belief system or any real basis of commonality.

Entirely optional.

It helps, with the friendship part, if you like each other. But it’s not required to like someone to have an interesting and cordial conversation. I don’t like small talk, by the way, and I’m not talking about small talk now. Small talk is the gross greasy fast food of the conversational world; maybe you have to make do with it sometimes when nothing else is available – and it won’t kill you, once in a while – but you don’t want it to be a regular or significant part of your diet.

2. For real, nothing is more important or fulfilling than having relationships with the people you love.

Nothing.

3. When you have a hunch about someone, listen to it.

Maybe it’s a hunch like, “Hmm, I think that person seems interesting and I think I could like them and we could be friends.”

Sometimes it’s a hunch like, “Hmmm, I think that person is unhappy today and needs someone to be kind.”

Sometimes it’s a hunch like, “Hmmm, I think that person is not giving me the whole story on this situation.”

Or maybe it’s less a specific hunch and more noticing the feelings/impressions you have around a person or group of people. Like, I feel like I can’t trust them or I feel relaxed with them or I feel lighter & better when I talk to them or They remind me of my narcissistic professor or It always seems dark and gloomy around them or I feel like there’s a crisis whenever I’m near them.

Your hunches might not always be exactly right. Your feelings might have more to do with what’s going on in your life than with that other person. But there’s a lot of subconscious information processing going on and sometimes you know something before you know something. You know? Notice. Listen. Don’t dismiss the hunches. Don’t let it be the final judgment, necessarily, but hold it there and see if ongoing interactions line up with the hunch or erase it.

4. Some people hide who they are – consciously or unconsciously – under many, many layers.

You can find the core, though. And when you find it, recognize that spark, the real Person, and interact with it instead of being distracted by yet another ego-identity-layer, you bless everyone: that Self and your own Self and ever other Self nearby.

5. Some people seem to be completely open, airing all their drama, flailing about with no secrets.

They are usually the ones with the most layers. Be patient with them and kind, because they are so afraid.

6. Some people, even on their worst day, bring in something like clean, fresh air.

They help you breathe. It could be their presence in the physical or a connection with them in the digital, either way, they do something and it’s good. I suspect it’s because these people consistently see the real Self that you are, consistently bypass your layers and defenses, and make it easier for you to let your spirit breathe and expand. They help you remember who you are. They are the best people. Don’t take them for granted.

7. The capability of being the best or worst of humanity is in you and me and every one who breathes on this earth.

You are all of those people above. So am I.

You can be the defensive angry version of yourself or the open, kind version. You can change from day to day. Most of us are continually shifting through the layers, sometimes reaching and being from the core, the Self; often getting stuck in one layer or another. Some of us get stuck in a single identity layer or two for a very long time. But what has been true about you in the past does not have to be true about you in the future. The Self will always be the Self – spirit, expanding – but you can shed the layers, as you wish. As soon as you see that you don’t need them.

8. People with a purpose and with a clear need to meet will amaze you with their capability and kindness and ability to work together.

They will nudge each other to the best version of humanity. Collectively, they form a kind of Wise Mother, a powerful force greater than any individual. If you’re around mothers very much, or you are a mother, you know that being a Wise Mother does not necessarily mean being gentle and soft and calm. Oh, no. It can mean raging, it can mean enormous strength, it can mean being abrupt and forceful in order to handle a situation. It is motivated by love and it can get shit done, lemme tell you.

9. Everybody is afraid to be the one to try it first.

To take the step before the crowd. To take the risk. To jump and see what happens. Everybody is afraid to be the first, but everybody wants to know if it’s possible.

10. Social media makes you feel like you know people but the perspective is so limited.

It’s laughable. And tragic.

What you see of someone on social media is maybe 2% of who that person is. Don’t judge the whole person because you don’t like the social media 2%. Don’t idolize the whole person because you love the social media 2%.

There’s a whole person back there, a real Person. Look for that person.

And maybe don’t hang out with the social media 2% if it makes you dislike and forget about the other 98% of that person. You choose how you encounter people. Choose encounters that help you see past the layers and to the real Self.

11. The human ability to adapt is our greatest power and our greatest weakness.

It’s a weakness because it can mean that we accept terrible, abusive conditions as a long-term way of life instead of changing or getting away from them. “Learn to live with it.” Well, maybe you shouldn’t learn to live with it.

It’s a strength because we can handle crisis and challenge; in upheaval, in illness, in deprivation, in stress, in discomfort, in various ongoing situations that feel like the-world-falling-down-around-you, we will find a normal and create routines and go about our daily business. We are kind of amazing that way.

12. People are generous, patient, kind, and capable but they’re also scared.

Of something. Maybe of a lot of things. If you encounter people who are not acting generous, patient, kind, or capable, you can be sure there is fear. Fear-chatter cluttering their brain, knots of anxiety tying up their emotions and responsiveness, maybe even physical tension and pain and unwellness weighing down their body.

13. Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away.

14. People will give and help you in astounding ways if you will let them know what you need.

15. You can’t make everyone understand you and it rankles to be misunderstood but really? It doesn’t matter.

Let it go. Be free of it.

Wish them well, whoever they are, and don’t waste time explaining what doesn’t need to be explained: You.

You don’t have to explain or justify your Self in this reality we share. It is ours. It belongs to all of us. Being alive here is its own justification. What you do day to day is your definition, your soul’s explanation of itself. If anyone wants to know you, really, they’ll pay attention and they’ll find out.

Words won’t do it. Labels are fucking ridiculous: “I am [GENDER], [ETHNICITY], from [COUNTRY OF ORIGIN], [AGE], [SEXUAL ORIENTATION], [HEIGHT], with [EYE COLOR], [HAIR COLOR], [CAREER CHOICE], [HOBBY], and [SIDE INTEREST], and oh yeah I’m [MARITAL STATUS], survivor of [BACKGROUND TRAUMA], and like [LIST OF ARBITRARY FAVORITES], and don’t forget [ETC].”

What does that mean about you? Nothing. It’s a series of descriptions about your life circumstances and current preferences and assigned socioeconomic role(s) and a list of vital signs about the meatbag you’re stuck in. That’s not YOU. Quit it.

Here’s what I want to know about you:

16. True friends far away are not diminished by the distance.

They are clarified, made more distinct and precious. Okay, this is just a rewording of Absence makes the heart grow fonder, basically, but it’s true. When you are physically far from some people, they kind of fade away and you maybe don’t notice, even.

But other people.

Well.

No matter where they are and where you are, physically, they are part of your daily life. They are in your thoughts, your routines, your stupid jokes, your work, your new experiences, and your memories. Because these people are important to you, they are always part of all the things that contribute to what you love in life. You can, with the perspective of distance, see and appreciate who they are to you as maybe you didn’t before.

(But sometimes being far away just sucks, and that’s that.)

17. You, reading this, I know some things about you.

I know you have some secret things you really want in life and you get tired, hoping you’ll get them (someday) or trying to pretend you don’t want them, not really. Pretending is hard work.

I know you’ve been through more than anyone knows, because the internal experience of something is a thousand times more intense and real than the external experience that other people see. And even if you have someone you trust who will sit and listen to you describe your internal experience, words fail. You can communicate maybe a fraction, at best, of what you’ve been through and what you’re going through.

You’re capable of achieving what you want and probably afraid to admit that to yourself. You’re both thrilled and terrified at the thought that it might be true.

You often feel like you’re at the fringes, on the edges of a group, not quite there, not quite fitting in, not truly immersed/accepted. Sometimes you don’t mind. Sometimes it’s so lonely you can’t stand it.

There’s something (or many things, more likely, but probably one in particular that’s just Uuuuuuuugh awful) about your outside/exterior life that doesn’t match your inner life and that disparity drives you crazy. It can drag you down. Maybe you’ve worked hard to bring the two together. Maybe you’re working on it now. Or maybe you’re exhausted and slowing down and not seeing any change and wondering why bother and thinking about quitting. (Don’t quit.)

You’re way too hard on yourself. Do me a favor? Drop the word should from your vocabulary. See if there’s a difference in that internal monologue if you can’t should yourself anymore.

The people who care about you care far, far more than you know but because you have trouble caring consciously for yourself, it can be difficult for you to see that.

And at least one of those points was, like, totally off the mark for you.

Maybe all of them! I don’t know! I’m neither psychic nor psychologist. This is amateur hour.

What I do know is that all those items describe me, to some extent. And I know that those inner experiences we have, that we feel so incapable of describing, that words really aren’t adequate to describe, well, I know that many of those most important, ultra-specific inner experiences are, in fact, universally felt, experienced, and understood. And that’s why sometimes you meet someone’s eyes, or say some stupid thing or stutter about trying to express something and instead of blah, you get connection. You get that look back. You get understanding.  There’s a connection that doesn’t make sense but you know that they know and that’s humanity in its inexplicable, haunting, beautiful weirdness and I love us and I love you and I’m glad we’re all here on this planet together. Let’s keep this thing going.

December 29, 2017