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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You can laugh, but I don’t care.

People think I don’t know when they’re making fun of me. But I know. I just no longer care.

I know I’m a bit weird. Quirky. Odd. Strange. I don’t always pick up on irony and sarcasm, I too often take things too seriously and believe stuff that’s not true. I’m book smart, theoretical, and don’t always understand right away how some of the things that are obvious to a lot of people work. With a lot of things, I’m a bit slow, and I need things spelled out to me.

But I know when I’m being made fun of, laughed at behind my back… I know it. I’m aware that it happens.

But here’s the thing. The thing is, I don’t care about it. If people have nothing better to do than make fun of me, then I feel sorry for them. If that’s what they want to spend their time on, then that’s their time being wasted, their life. I’m not gonna waste my time caring about it, because I lose so much precious time that way. Life may be long, but it might be short. We never know how much time we’re gonna get and I don’t want to waste mine. I want to focus on doing things that are good for me, that bring joy to my soul. I don’t want to care about people who have negative opinions about me.

And I want to share a poem with you. It’s one of my favourite pieces of writing, I’ve copied it down so many times, and I might have shared it on my blog before, but I wanted to share it again:

I love being horribly straightforward. I love sending reckless text messages (because how reckless can a form of digitized communication be?) and telling people I love them and telling people they are absolutely magical humans and I cannot believe they really exist. I love saying, Kiss me harder, and You’re a good person, and, You brighten my day. I live my life as straight-forward as possible.

Because one day, I might get hit by a bus.

Maybe it’s weird. Maybe it’s scary. Maybe it seems downright impossible to just be—to just let people know you want them, need them, feel like, in this very moment, you will die if you do not see them, hold them, touch them in some way whether its your feet on their thighs on the couch or your tongue in their mouth or your heart in their hands.

But there is nothing more beautiful than being desperate.

And there is nothing more risky than pretending not to care.

We are young and we are human and we are beautiful and we are not as in control as we think we are. We never know who needs us back. We never know the magic that can arise between ourselves and other humans.

We never know when the bus is coming.”

—Rachel C. Lewis, Tell The People You Love That You Love Them

Xoxo

Julie

Motherhood Thoughts and Fears

I’m almost 25, and my boyfriend turned 28 earlier this year. We’re adults. I’m two years older than my mom was when she had me, six years older than my grandma was when she had me. So if we go by years I still have two more years before I should have my first child. But that’s not how it works. 

The first girl who had a baby in my year in school was 16. Another followed close after. And in the last few years many others have had their first and second child as well. Last November my oldest friend had a baby. I’ve visited twice since then – in my defense I’ve only been home three times since she had him. With everyone buying apartments, having kids, upgrading to houses, having more kids… It’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind, when you’re almost 25 and still in school (master’s degree is still school), living with roommates that weren’t your choice, and the only jobs you’ve had are seasonal or weekends only. But a couple of weeks ago I found this quote on Instagram, which was really something that I needed to hear:

I visited my friend with the baby while I was home for Easter holiday. He is five months old, and when he wasn’t sleeping he was giggling and sucking on his fingers and we played airplane and with a stuffed elephant with toys on it and he was so incredibly cute! 

When I came home I had a message in a group chat with me and two other friends asking what we’re doing today so I said I just came home and was putting on laundry because I had some drool and spit up on me. One of my friends responded with a heart eye emoji. Both of the girls in the group chat are in serious want of babies. They’re a year younger than me. I’m not in the same want of babies. And I don’t feel like heart eye emojis at spit up and drool. 

Of course I’m gonna have babies someday. But is there something wrong with me when my uterus isn’t screaming for them, and I don’t feel like heart eye emojis at the thought of baby fluids at the age of almost 25? Hanging out with a 5-month old was fun, but I was a bit scared of hurting him when holding him, even now that he was much larger than the last time I saw him, when he was only 5 weeks old and so fragile I was scared to even touch him, and I couldn’t move him when he moved in my arms when I was holding him. Will this change, if the baby is mine? Or do I not have what it takes to be a good and loving mother? Is there any way of knowing? How do I put up with the not knowing until I know? 

~ Julie 

Tell the people you love that you love them.

I love being horribly straightforward. I love sending reckless text messages (because how reckless can a form of digitized communication be?) and telling people I love them and telling people they are absolutely magical humans and I cannot believe they really exist. I love saying, “Kiss me harder,” and “You’re a good person,” and, “You brighten my day.” I live my life as straight-forward as possible.

Because one day, I might get hit by a bus.

Maybe it’s weird. Maybe it’s scary. Maybe it seems downright impossible to just be—to just let people know you want them, need them, feel like, in this very moment, you will die if you do not see them, hold them, touch them in some way whether its your feet on their thighs on the couch or your tongue in their mouth or your heart in their hands.

But there is nothing more beautiful than being desperate.

And there is nothing more risky than pretending not to care.

We are young and we are human and we are beautiful and we are not as in control as we think we are. We never know who needs us back. We never know the magic that can arise between ourselves and other humans.

We never know when the bus is coming.

~ Rachel C. Lewis

This quote was on my whiteboard for a year and a half. Because it’s such a powerfully strong piece of writing. Which is why I wanted to share it with you. Happy Easter!

~ Julie

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