Be harmless, not helpful

When I was younger, say about 11-15/16, school was always finished at 2.15pm, and I’d always race home to put on 7th Heaven on the TV, and if I was fortunate, I’d only miss the few minutes that were before the intro music. That’s where I first came across this phrase, the title of today’s entry – I don’t remember exactly how it was phrased, I think it was used multiple times, but the gist of it was that it is better to be harmless than to try to be helpful. I think there are a few different ways to look at this and interpret this phrase that we need to talk about.

Firstly, I think we have all been on the receiving end of advice that didn’t go as planned; that made things worse instead of better. To be honest, we’ve probably all given such advice as well – the intent was good, we were trying to help, but the end result did not reflect our intentions. Sometimes trying to help can do more harm than good, and thus backing up the statement that you should be harmless instead of helpful.

Now, what do we mean about being harmless, exactly? I think this is something we should talk about, because a lot of people will say something that seems or sounds harmless to them, but it most definitely is not. Take for example people with any kind of anxiety disorder, or that are struggling with depression – many seemingly harmless statements can actually be hurtful to hear if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression. One of the most well discussed things, going off of my own experience and that of friends and family, and what I see on Twitter for example, is to be told to “just calm down”, “cheer up”, or “just breathe”, or that you’re overreacting. Taking an example from my own life recently, I know, rationally, that I am in fact overreacting, but that doesn’t stop the tightening feeling in my throat, the hyperventilating, or the tears, and I most certainly do not need anyone to tell me to calm down or that I’m overreacting. I know that I’m overreacting, that there is no physical threat to me being sat in front of a computer screen looking at a programme I don’t understand, but if it was so easy as to just breathe or “calm down” don’t you think I would do it? (PS: no one was telling me anything of the sort at the time, this is just me stating what would not have been harmless in the moment). Most of the time, I just need a minute, a little while to let my body catch up to what my brain already knows; that I am fine and in no danger at all. But if someone were to tell me things like the ones above, it might have been intended as good, but cause me harm, because it’ll make me feel worthless, like what I am experiencing isn’t valid, and it might make me feel afraid, and lead to me not being able to be myself around them, it might lead to me wanting and doing everything I can to be invisible, to not make them feel uncomfortable because of what is happening to me.

So you see, phrases that are often intended to be helpful, and perceived as harmless by the person uttering them, can sometimes do more harm than they do good. There is a difference, in my opinion, between being harmless, and saying something you think is harmless. And the above things would fall into the latter category. Being harmless, I think, is a much more passive thing, or it can be – we’ll get to other less passive things in a bit. Being harmless, in some cases, doesn’t require the saying of things. It requires being there for the person who needs it. You should be a safe place for people in your life, a place where they know they won’t be judged or told things like “you don’t look like you have (insert mental state)”, a place where they can just be themselves, where they can rant and scream and cry if that’s what they need. Being harmless, to me, means that people can talk to you, that they can cry on your shoulder, that they can lay with you being held and feeling safe, sit next to you, have their hand held or their back stroked, knowing that no physical harm can come to them in that moment, so they do whatever they need to do, while being with someone who will ensure their safety in the process.

But being harmless can also mean other things. Sometimes, it means being the distraction someone sorely needs, the one who makes them laugh, who takes them places to look at weird stuff or walks  around the city or the country side people-watching or cloud-watching, to be the person that takes their mind off of things. This is a slightly less passive form of harmlessness, I think, where you actively try to be what the person needs, regardless of what that actually is. But I also think it’s important to make sure that this is what the person needs at the time, because they might require other things, such as what I wrote in the previous paragraph, or what I’m about to write about in the next paragraph.

Sometimes, being harmless means letting people go. It might not be forever, it might just be for a  few hours or a few days. Being there for someone, being a harmless place, means giving them what they need, and sometimes what people need is space. It might be time off from social media, it might mean them going away for a while, it might mean that you being in their life is causing them harm, and therefore giving them space is the most harmless thing you can do. This is the one that is hardest to do, this is the one that hurts the most. I can openly say that I have been the person causing harm to someone else simply by being a part of their life, and us trying to stay in each others’ lives ended up causing us both harm. Which sucked. This was a person I cared about a lot, and who cared a lot about me too, but in the end we were no good for each other and went our separate ways. It has been years, and I know this was the kind of letting go that meant forever, even if I didn’t want it at the time. I recently looked them up on social media, without them knowing about it, and discovered that, from what they have been posting, things definitely seem better in their life now, and seeing this made me really happy. It made me realise that we did the most harmless thing we could do, which was remove ourselves from each other, and that made things better, for both of us. And now I am at peace, knowing things are good for them, and I am okay with the fact that what they needed was to not have me in their life, because not all people are good for each other.

This, of course, need not always be the case. I have other people in my life in present time where we’ve taken breaks from each other, time to heal, and have ended up reconnecting after a few weeks or months, and at present time we are no longer causing each other harm. And that’s a wonderful thing. We were causing each other harm, we took a break from each other, which at least for me was hard and painful, but reconnecting and looking back on it in retrospect made me glad we did it because we are positive presences in each others’ lives now. Letting go is not always bad. It might hurt at the time, but the most important thing is that people are safe and not in a harmful place, whether that be physical, mental, or emotional. If someone is causing you pain, would you want to keep them in your life? If you’re causing someone harm by being a presence in their life, do you really want to stay, knowing that you’re hurting them? The selfish answer is, I like having them in my life and losing them will cause me pain so I will do everything I can to keep them in my life. The altruistic answer is, I am causing them pain, I need to remove myself from this situation/their life so that I am no longer causing pain to another human being. I completely understand the logic of the first, no one wants to do anything that will cause themselves harm, but I also think it’s important to consider the harm we might be inflicting on others, and make sure we do as little of that as possible – that we need to focus a little bit more on being harmless.

This entry took a very dark turn, but I think it’s important to talk about it. Dark and painful and difficult topics might be the ones that need talking about the most. But it’s important to remember that being harmless can mean many different things, and people require different things from other people around them. On the internet, where I spend a lot of my time, I see people being so mean to other people, and I always see people talking about how they hate other people, and how animals are better because they are never cruel. As humans, we are the only ones who can change how humans behave, starting with ourselves. If I start by being kinder to you and providing you with a harmless space, you can be kinder and a safe space to the next person, who can then do the same to their next person, and so on. It might be a dream scenario in an imaginary world, but piece by piece the castle gets built, you just have to start somewhere (I don’t know if that is an actual metaphor, I may have just made that up…).

What I wanted to say, above anything else in this entry, and if you didn’t read anything else and just skipped to the end for the TL;DR portion, this is it: People cannot cure other people, you just have to be there for them.

I will end this entry with one of my all-time favourite quotes, which I’ve had written on whiteboards and pieces of paper stuck to the wall and book covers and also really wanted to by a jumper with it on, which is from an organisation called To Write Love On Her Arms, and it is this:

twloha

Feel free to leave a comment and we’ll talk down below!

Xoxo

Julie

 

Related entries: Mission First, People Always

 

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Summer Freedom

There’s just two weeks left of my summer job and I’m only just now starting to feel like the time I’m not at work is MY time to do whatever I want. I’ve not had uni to deal with since my last exam on June 5th, why has it taken me so long to feel free? My summer job lasts 8 weeks, meaning it’s taken me 6 weeks to get to this point. This really baffles me. What have I been doing for so long? I honestly have no idea.

I think the feelings of freedom started when my parents went away on holiday. The first time I really felt free this summer was a day where I was on nobody’s time but my own. My parents had gone away for the day and were eating dinner out, my brother had plans to go on a hiking trip, and the weather was lovely so instead of going home after work I went on a forest walk by myself, just listening to happy music and playing Pokémon GO and enjoying life, because no one was waiting for me with food or anything like that. It was a lovely feeling.

Whenever I’ve been home for a weekend or even longer, during the past 6 years of living in the city and going to university, I’ve spent a lot of time with my parents. I’ve sat in the living room watching whatever they’re watching on TV, I’ve hung out with them, going for walks, going with them to shops etc. I’ve spent very little time to myself, next to no time in my room except for to sleep. The reason for this, is that I’ve sometimes not known when would be the next time I’d get to come home – it might be weeks or months until the next time, and therefore I’ve felt that I need to spend all the time with them.

Now that they’ve been on holiday, I’ve been entirely on my own. Taking care of the house, cooking for myself, spending time doing whatever I’ve wanted to do. I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve only read, I’ve had a few days where I’ve needed to do a lot of chores but it hasn’t been so bad. I’ve spent two mornings and an evening editing pictures for a friend, watched a movie, played a lot of Mario Kart on my laptop… I’ve taken back my time, even though no one has demanded that I do anything else anyway, it’s been liberating.

I’m moving, in 16 days from today. I’ll need to start packing soon, to prepare for the move as I’ve no idea when I’ll be back to pick up more stuff, and I can only bring a suitcase and my carry-on. But even so, I don’t feel the pressure that I’ve felt before, that I need to spend as much of my waking time with my family as possible. Because it’s not necessary to be around someone 100% of the time or to talk to them all the time to know and show that you love them, care about them, like them… It’s perfectly fine to take time to yourself, be by yourself, do things for yourself. Because YOU are the only one who has to be around you 100% of the time, and it’s important to do things that make YOU happy, that make YOU able to live with the person you are.

xoxo

Julie

Hallelujah – You’re Home

Last week, I read Sophie’s entry on losing her nan earlier this year. I lost my grandmother on October 25th, 2016. I’m still struggling with it myself. I’ve never really lost anyone before. A great-grandmother when I was a child, but we weren’t close and I was a child. But I’m 24 now, and my grandmother and I were really close.

She died on a Tuesday. I didn’t really know how sick she was until the Friday before. She had been in the hospital for a while, but I thought she’d recover. I thought maybe we could go there around Christmas, so that I could visit her; I hadn’t seen her since May 2015, it’s an 8-hour drive to where they live. Tuesday morning at 8am my mom called me, saying my uncle had called Monday afternoon. Grandma had been asking for my dad, and my uncle said he needed to get down there now. My dad drove all night and arrived early in the morning, right before my mom called me and told me all of this. I lit a candle in the morning. It’s like I knew. Around 5pm my phone rang. I was sure it was my mom, but it was my roommate inviting me to a customers’ night at a hair and beauty salon. It was barely 5 minutes after that that my phone rang again. It was my mom, and I could hear it in her voice when she asked if I was home. And then she said “Now, grandma has died.”

The funeral was on the 4th of November. I went back to the city on the 7th. I had a month and a half before Christmas. And I was just supposed to go back to my life? Like nothing had changed? Like my entire world hadn’t just changed? I couldn’t do it. I still can’t do it. My life isn’t the same. Sometimes I forget that she’s dead, and I think I should call her. And then I remember that I can’t. I don’t even remember the last time I spoke to her. I know I called her a few days before her birthday in February, because I would be abroad on her birthday. There’s a possibility that we talked in the summer while my parents were on vacation, my boyfriend thinks I talked to her while he was here with me. But I don’t remember. And I feel so incredibly guilty, because that means I didn’t call her often enough. How can I forgive myself for something like that?

It’s Easter time of year. I spend Easter with my grandparents many times as a child. Once, we were woken up and ran all around the house looking for Easter eggs – which we ended up finding in our beds. My grandmother had a lot of tiny fluffy yellow chickens around the house. I walked around collecting them in my tiny hand once, they were all so squished they never recovered. It’s Easter, and she’s not here. I couldn’t call her to wish her Happy Easter, I couldn’t catch her up on what’s been happening in my life, and her telling me not much has changed with her. Meaning to hang up at least four times but not doing it because we remembered something else to talk about. I miss my grandmother this Easter.

There are many songs that make me think of my grandmother, too. Some of them don’t even have anything to do with her. This song came out too recently for her to have heard it, but a couple of weeks ago it made me cry on the bus on my way to uni, because it made me think of her. This song, is Supermarked Flowers by Ed Sheeran.

~ Julie

A Note On Love

I’ve spent a great part of my life thinking that, you shouldn’t love someone who doesn’t or can’t love you back. My reason for this is quite natural: it only ends up hurting you. However, over the past several months, I’ve come to realize that I don’t quite like this anymore. And therefore, I wanted to share something with my readers, wherever you are, whatever your situation is, whether you’re in a happy loving relationship or you love someone you can’t have or you think you can’t love anymore because the last person you loved left you in pieces.

Love. Love everyone. Love all the time. Don’t let past experiences make you hard. Don’t let the world make you empty. Let yourself love people. Even if they don’t love you. Only love can fill the cracks and holes caused by loneliness, rejection, and betrayal. Only love can make us whole again. Maybe they can’t because they don’t know how to. Show them. Spread love everywhere you go. Leave pieces of yourself with everyone you meet. Love without the aim of being loved bad. Just love.

“Love until your heart gives out.” (writingsforwinter)

Allow yourself to feel. Allow yourself to love. Cercei Lannister was wrong; loving people doesn’t make you weak. It opens you up and makes you different but it does not make you weak. Love is not weakness. Love is strength.

Give your all or give nothing. Devote yourself completely. Love with all you have and all that you are. Just love. When your love is rejected, do not dwell. Give more love, give love to someone else, to everyone else, Leave love everywhere. Love because you know what it feels like to be loved. Love because of what it feels like to love someone.

Don’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you.

No, do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love people, all people. No conditions, no strings attached, no wondering whether or not they’re worthy. Cross oceans, climb mountains. Life and love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give. Tell people you love them. Not to hear it back or to get anything out of it. Tell people you love them to make sure they know you do.

I am a firm believer in that only love can mend a broken heart. Love will make your heart soft. Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness. Bukowski said, how can you say you love one person when there are ten thousand people in the world that you would love more if you ever met them?

And when your heart breaks… Fill all the cracks with love. Love people, romantically or otherwise. And if you can’t do that yet, fall in love with things. Fall in love with music. Fall in love with hobbies. Love. Until you’re able to love again. Love until your cracks become scars that eventually fade completely. Love until you become whole again.

How We Should Protect Ourselves (but never do)

Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.
– 
Holden, The Catcher in the Rye

Personally, I have a twist on this quote, an idea I would like to share with you. Something I wish I was more capable of controlling myself. It goes like this:

Don’t ever think anything about anybody. If you do, you start missing everybody.

What I mean about this is… As people, when we get to know other people, we start thinking things. Imagining things. Creating scenarios in our heads that the people are a part of. It’s all good and well so far. We’re aware that they’re just daydreams and imaginations, they’re not real. But the people are. These imaginations and scenarios are things we want to do with these people. Things that maybe someday will happen. Conversations we’ll maybe have, someday. Places we’ll maybe go to. All good and well so far.

The problem with this, I propose to you, goes something like this: those people aren’t real either. They are our imagined versions of these people. How we want them to be. The things we want them to say. Things we imagine maybe someday they will actually say. We know them, we know how they talk and behave, and all we do is take this a step furter and create situations in our heads. Correction: All we think we do. But something else happens, that we may or may not be aware of. We begin to apply the imagined version to the real person. We look for traits in the real people that fit the fantasy. We begin to believe that the imaginary version is the real person. But they’re not.

People, sooner or later, in one way or another, will let you down. They’ll say or do or be something that doesn’t fit with the imagination. They’ll shatter the illusion. Naturally, we blame them. “This isn’t who you are, you’ve changed, you’ve never been like this before” we might say. It’s their fault. They don’t fit the version that we’ve created. The version WE’VE created. We. Us. I. The individual. Our mind. We are to blame. We created the imaginary version of the real person. We are to blame, not the person. They never promised to be this or do that or say a certain thing. We expected them to because the made-up version of them did. But the actual person never agreed to being who the imagined version them are.

We let ourselves down. We lead ourselves on. We break our own hearts. The person didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t do anythign at all. They just weren’t how you made them out to be in your head. And that’s your fault, my fault, each our own fault, and not the person’s fault. We hurt ourselves. If we didn’t do this, we’d be more protected. But it’s impossible not to. We can’t fight what’s inside of us. Well sometimes we can, but fighting ourselves is the most unnatural thing in the world because we are everything that we are. Maybe. Not necessarily. Other sides of this can be argued (think: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are”). But if you drag that statement into this it becomes a matter of distinguishing right from wrong and knowing the difference. What I propose is that imagining scenarios and creating versions of people is on the light side, the right side, we don’t see anything wrong with it, which is why it’s unnatural to fight this part of who we are.

Before I lose my point completely: the last part of my twist on the famous sentence from the famous book taught in most high school literature classes. If you do, you start missing everybody. People turn out not to be how we imagined them, how we wanted them to be. When we find this out, we have to come to terms with that. Accept that they’re not who we thought they were. And that isn’t necessarily easy. You may feel like you’ve been lied to (by the person, but really by your head). If you can come to terms with who they are, who the REAL person is, then maybe you can have a wonderful friendship (or relationship or whatever it is that you might have). But if you can’t, you’ll probably end up not having anything to do with them. And you may find yourself missing them. But you don’t miss the real person, you miss the imaginations, the fantasies, the daydreams, about the person you have by this point discovered doesn’t exist. Holding on to those is hard to do once you know the person isn’t like that. So you end up missing them, too.

Don’t ever think anything about anybody. If you do, you start missing everybody.

This entry was inspired by this tumblr post.

~ Julie

Call Me Hopeless, But Not Romantic

I want the human contact that being in a relationship brings.

I don’t mean sex. I’m doing just fine without sex.

I want holding hands in a crowded street in the morning when people are rushing to work, or on the bus in the late afternoon when everyone’s exhausted. I want the comfort of having someone there with me, that I’m not alone in the crowd.

I want to make and eat dinner with another human being. To try new dishes. To fuck up completely and end up ordering pizza. To have a conversation with someone instead of sitting in silence in front of my laptop.

I want to be with a person who will give me a hug and stay hugging for a moment before they let go, at least once a day. Both for their sake and for mine. Someone who wants to do that.

I want someone I can fall asleep with, not sleep with. I want someone who will fall asleep next to me, a tangled mess of arms and legs and hair and t-shirts and blankets. Someone who will hold me. Someone I can hold.

I want intimacy. Not sex.

Love Is Not A Choice

If you have to choose between me and someone else, please don’t choose me.

I don’t want to be anyone’s choice. First, second… Nothing. Love isn’t supposed to be a choice. This isn’t Pokémon. It’s not a matter of “I choose you”… It’s a matter of, “I had no choice, I fell in love with you, I couldn’t help it, it just happened”.

If someone chose you… There’s always a chance of them choosing someone else, later on. I don’t believe love should be about choosing someone to be with, not the way you choose which book to read next because you’re bored or you choose which university to attend because of its attractiveness (to you or future employers) or because it will benefit you. It’s not about lining up the people you could potentially be in a relationship with and choosing one based on how good-looking they are, or smart, or rich. If you find yourself in that situation, my advice would be to turn around and walk away from all of them. You’re not going to find love that way.

Love is about magnetism. You’re being pulled towards a person, and they’re being pulled towards you, and you can’t help each other, you have to have each other, be together, and no one else matters.

To quote Gone Girl: We have each other – everything else is background noise.

Or to quote Ygritte in Game of Thrones: It’s you and me that matters to me and you. You’re mine, mine as I’m yours. If we die, we die. All men must die. But first, we’ll live.

Love is about not being able to stay away from each other. It’s about not being able to get them out of your head. Not being able to let anyone else take their place. You want only them. You need them. You can’t imagine your life without them. You can’t imagine living without them, in one way or another. You need them in your life. You forgive them for the mistakes they make, because the thought of being without them is too much, to overwhelming, it makes your heart ache and insides shiver and eyes water.

Love is not a choice. Love just happens. And if you’re lucky, love will just happen to the other person as well. And that, could be the best thing that ever happens to you.

Mission First. People Always.

This is a quote I learned when I was watching the Lifetime TV show Army Wives. However, I did grow up with a father in uniform. And this is one of my all-time favorite quotes. When I told a friend about it, he didn’t get it. But then I explained.

To me it’s like, people are what matter, people are what’s important. Not all people – but like, the people that matter to you. Your friends, family, who you love… They’re the most important thing in your life. And I’ll always choose them over doing something. Not like, use them to avoid doing something I wanna do but like, if/when they need me, I’ll choose them over sleep and I’ll ditch a lecture and I’ll drop what I’d been looking forward to doing on my day off to be with them because they’re more imporant than things. Mission first. People always.

I would gladly stay up all night for someone who needed me to be there for them. I would do anything in my power to help. It’s like that song by The Fray: And I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life. I would stay up regardless of whether I am capable of helping. I would stay up no matter what the situation was. No matter who it was – I would do that for anyone who came to me for help.

I have another friend. Actually, he’s more than just a friend. He’s special. And I can always tell when something isn’t right, even though we’ve never met. I get a feeling, and I can also see it in how he writes – that’s how well I know him. Tonight is one of these nights, when something isn’t exactly right. I got the feeling when I asked me a question. He confirmed with how he replied when I asked why he asked after answering his question.

I wish he was closer. I wish I could just get in a car and drive to be with him – I can’t drive but how hard could it be? I’d get there. I’d kick down the door if I had to (or at least break the window so I could unlock it from the inside). I’d hold him. Talk to him. Listen to him. Not say a word. Whatever he needs, that’s what I’d do. Make him feel less lonely. Show him that everything will be okay. Be there for him. Tell him that this is the part that sucks but it will get better and that I’ll be here through it all. I’ll always be here. He’s never alone.

It’s terrifying to love someone and worry about them when you’re too far away to do a damn thing about it. But I’ll stay up all night tonight if that’s what he needs. I’ll talk on whatever social media or skype or whatever he wants. I’ll do whatever he wants. I’ll be a wreck tomorrow and my parents will ask why on earth I didn’t sleep and I’ll tell them that someone needed me and I’ll tell them “Mission first – people always”.

I’ve been listening to All Time Low while writing this, and the song Missing You came on and it reminded me of him. The lyrics are perfect, so I will end this entry with them:

I heard that you’ve been self-medicating
In the quiet of your room
Your sweet suburban tomb
And if you need a friend
I’ll help you stitch up your wounds

I’ve heard that you’ve been having some trouble
Finding your place in the world
I know how much that hurts
But if you need a friend
Then please, just say the word

You’ve come this far
You’re all cleaned up
You made a mess again
There’s no more trying
It’s time to sort yourself out

Hold on tight
This ride is a wild one
Make no mistake, the day will come
When you can’t cover up what you’ve done
Now don’t lose your fight, kid
It only takes a little push to pull on through
With so much left to do
You’ll be missing out
And we’ll be missing you

Grit your teeth
Pull your hair
Paint the walls black and scream
“Fuck the world!
It’s my life and I’m gonna take it back”
And never for a second blame yourself

– Julie

Movie Love in Real Life?

I wonder what it’s like, to kiss the love of your life for the first time…

Every kiss before the right kiss doesn’t count anyway. I’ve kissed a lot of women. The first time I kissed my wife… Well, I mean she wasn’t my wife then; she was just this girl in a bar. And when we kissed, it was like – I got to tell you – it was like I never kissed any other woman before. It was like the first kiss, the right kiss. ~ Derek Sheppherd, “Grey’s Anatomy”

A lot of people kiss a lot of people throughout their life. And at some point they decide that they don’t want to kiss any other person than this one person, that they want to spend their life with that person. But did they know that, the first time they kissed? Or did they find out after they got to know this person, after many dates, many kisses, many nights spent together… I wonder.

A lot of people don’t even get to be alone in the same room as their spouse until they’re married. In many cultures, that is the norm. Some people don’t get to choose the person they have to spend the rest of their life with. Some of these couples end up loving each other. Some become friends but nothing more. Some never get anywhere. Do they know where they will end up when they kiss for the first time?

Books and movies are one thing. Derek knew when he first kissed Meredith in “Grey’s Anatomy”. Lucy in “My Name Is Memory” knew it was Daniel even though she couldn’t remember her past lives but he could. She knew it before they kissed. Nicholas Sparks is perhaps the best known contrmporary author of true love and romance novels. These people they meet, they kiss, something happens and they’re forced apart, they fight, they end up back together, they’re meant to be.

But what about real life? Is it possible to meet someone and just know that they’re the one? To kiss someone and know that they’re the love of your life? I haven’t experienced it, otherwise I would probably be with the person right now… But I’m not. But like I said, I do wonder what it’s like, to kiss the love of your life for the first time…