The many faces of resistance

Today, I write about resistance, and the many manifestations it can take. There is such a familiar image one thinks of when they see the word “resistance” — a passionate crowd wielding signs and shouting; a defiant gaze against an authoritative figure; maybe even Star Wars?

After a month of the “Reclaiming My Time” workshop, I am realizing that “resistance” can look so different from these preconceptions: a circle of crying faces mourning the loss of a community member; getting up every morning to show your face at an institution that strips you of your identity and culture; and pushing through to have a difficult conversation with a friend.

I am starting to realize that oftentimes, the strongest people are those who don’t shout, but whisper. These are the people that continually try to make themselves accessible and open, in the effort to educate and spread understanding. It takes strength to shout, but it takes even more strength to show restraint, so that the other side may still listen — so that the relationships remain intact, so that your words may live to fight another day for you.

Silence is speech. A whisper is a shout. One conversation can change the world. So just when you think I am succumbing, I am not. I am resisting.

Daily Post prompt: Succumb


FOMO: The digital version

There are just some days when synchronizing with the world feels too damn tiring.

* * *

I went camping for the first time in my life just a few days ago. I slept outside, surrounded by the buzz of insects and the hard ground beneath me. That part of camping will take some getting used to. But one of my favorite parts about camping was being out of reach of any cell phone towers. Those tall, ominous beacons couldn’t find me. And therefore, no one could find me. No one who cared enough to message me. Yesss, I sighed with relief as my phone finally comatosed into silence a few hours into the trip.

The mental vacation lasted about 4 days.

Driving back from the trip, my phone returned to civilization — and the madness started. My phone took a life of its own as the landscape around me got busier. It started buzzing and ding-ing as messages and event notifications came pouring in, reminding me of the “life” I had been missing out on while I was “gone”. I felt the anxiety I had been delaying for days, full of dread at the level of decay my relationships must have suffered at my non-presence, feeling this enigmatic inadequacy wash over me all of a sudden.

I felt like a dam had broken, no longer shielding me from the inevitable deluge.

* * *

Every time I go offline, I feel refuge from the flood of notifications, messages, and daily mental comparisons I make of my life to others’ seemingly more copacetic ones.

In our modern world, we are inundated with opportunities to “synchronize”:

  • Read the same headlines as everybody else
  • Find common ground with complete strangers in a heated forum discussion
  • Admire the same glittering social media accounts that someone else does, recommended to you by some algorithm
  • Take pictures of the same waterfall as someone else — that waterfall now has no soul
  • Share your location and find yet other people who have been to the same place

This causes me to backtrack mentally sometimes: are human beings meant to be this social? Are we really meant to be trapped in these webs of interaction, lured in by FOMO — the fear of missing out? These attempts to connect with the world at large — are they as tangible as the wiry feeling of moss on a tree branch, or the scatter of moonlight on the forest floor? Are they as genuine as a close friend that tells me what’s real in his everyday world?

I say this, tired, and yet, here I am, throwing my thoughts at other people like e-confetti.

* * *

The world is run by hash tags and other identifiers that are meant to unite the world and bring some pattern to this otherwise meaningless chaos. I get it; it’s our way of feeling less alone, less isolated in this digital biome. But sometimes, it’s too much. The overstimulation, the almost competitive drive to be “caught up” — caught up with what, I really don’t know some days.

Sharks — they gotta keep swimming or they’ll just sink to the bottom and die. It just seems, in the world we live in today, that you will do just the same, if you don’t keep swimming in this sea of information overflow. Would I really miss out on life if I ignore my phone? Or would I actually experience it the way it’s meant to be? We can choose to be “offline” for any given number of time, but, outside of completely adopting a hermit lifestyle, it never really ends.

When can we just rest? When can we ever rest?

Daily Post prompt: Synchronize

Denial: Give in or give out

I have never been a person of duty. Never have I let something as unimaginative as obligation weigh me down. What is this word, “obligation”? I do what I want, even if it’s irrational… even if it’s selfish.

See, when I deny myself something, it starts to fester — whether it’s dissatisfaction with my partner, a difference of opinion with my friend, or a long-dormant resentment towards a family member, it never fails to ooze out over time. I know I’ve let it remain under wraps for too long, when my demeanor towards them starts to change, through no fault of their own.

Denial is a slow-burning creature. It’s there. It stares you in the face. And when you turn to the other direction to avoid it, maddeningly, it will readjust itself to look you in your eyes again. It accumulates, the more real estate you give it.

The only positive way to handle denial is to succumb to it. It’s one of those things, where, the more resistance you give, the more it will push back. I always give in, in the end. I’ve taken the day off, and broken relationships, and dropped bombs on my family because I didn’t want denial to dominate my being.

Obligation is just the martyr-child of denial. It may be selfish to surrender to denial, but in the end it’s self-care.

Daily Post prompt: Denial

“Great” expectations: Habits & relationships

Today, and every day for the last few months, I have wondered about the habits we perform in romantic relationships: physical ones, mental ones, and most especially, emotional ones. You know what I mean; these habits are the little tics, the behaviors, the thought patterns unique to you that seem to migrate from one person you’re with to another.

Like for me, I know my fingers will always find their way around the hair at the base of his neck, no matter who it is. I know, that for the first few months — or even year — together, I will be a creature of insecurities, constantly comparing myself to their exes, telling myself I’m not good enough. And finally, I know my expectations, molded by the fire and friction of previous relationships, will cause me to be disappointed if he doesn’t meet them.

It feels like I have a template for relationships that changes subtly with each man. Ex #1 made me love men who could talk. Ex #2 made me love men who could dance. Ex #3 made me love men who did sweet little gestures for me. You know, etc. With the end of each relationship, that template would evolve and take a life of its own, like some constantly shifting microorganism, altering itself after some change in its environment. Little by little, the template adapts to incorporate traits that I love, and to accommodate for the traits that I, shall we say, don’t love, but am willing to tolerate.

This is fair, right? This is the part people always optimistically talk about — that grand experiment of dating different people to figure out what you like and don’t like, right?

Well, that all seems fine, but… what if you’re a neurotic freak who holds on to the past? What if that’s the case?

How would I know to trust my template? How would I know I’m being fair in my evaluation of the person I’m with? How would I know my expectations are still legitimate to hold on to? How would I know if my habit of holding on to these expectations is still healthy? Is it even right to hold on to expectations in relationships?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and frankly, I’ve always been wary of ambiguity. I need rubrics, comparisons, examples, and long, drawn-out discussions with girlfriends who are just as neurotic as me, if not more so. Obviously.

This habit of mine, of keeping a death grip on my ideals based on past relationships, is not as cute as my finger wrapping around his hair. And although it’s perfectly natural that certain habits apply to my next relationship, the extent to which I let other habits overtake my relationship should be mindfully kept in check. Habits are hard to break, and are relics from our past that may no longer be relevant to our present.

Daily Post prompt: Expectation