Listen Before You Label


Reach both hands out in front of you, palms facing up. If you’ve ever been called “crazy” make a fist with one hand. If you’ve called someone “crazy” make a fist with the other hand. Those are two less hands you have to hold another’s, to push yourself off the ground when you’ve fallen, and worst of all, two more hands to beat yourself up and destroy relationships of any kind.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary there are three distinct definitions of “crazy.”

  1. full of cracks or flaws: unsound/crooked, askew
  2. mad insane, impractical: erratic, being out of the ordinary: unusual
  3. distracted with desire or excitement; absurdly fond: infatuated; passionately preoccupied: obsessed.

Why have you ever called someone crazy? Certainly not to be helpful, not to show concern or interest in his or her situation. It was probably to shut down a situation, to assert your own logic or “sanity,” or to just feel right. But what does it do to the recipient of that insult? It’s a verbal slap in the face. Crazy translates to, “I don’t care how much pain you’re in, it’s disrupting my life and I can’t listen anymore.”

How do I know this? Because I’ve been on both sides. In my exhaustion, and my inability to help a loved one, I lashed out. It’s much easier to call someone “crazy” and exit the situation than to accept another person’s pain, especially your contribution to it. And, unfortunately, I’ve also felt someone weakening his or her support of my emotional well-being by using the same word to describe me.

If you break down the emotional timeline that could lead to the social labeling of someone as “crazy,” you’ll find how logical it is. A traumatic event, such as a break up, death in the family, or a simple rejection, illness, career instability, the list goes on and on. Yes, pain often finds rot in internal distress, but more often than not there’s an external factor dragging your friend down.

You know what’s the worst “condolence” to receive when suffering from any sort of pain? “There are other people in this world suffering far more than you,” that “You have no right to complain or feel bad because someone’s life is worse than yours.”

Is that what God meant for us? To bottle up our pain, keep it so close that we absorb it, until the pain becomes us? I just don’t think that’s the case. Honestly, that sounds crazy to me.

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The Effort of Trusting

heaviest burden

I’ve felt broken for a while now, so I constantly remind myself I am not broken. However, I can certainly say I’m a little chipped, bent, torn, ragged – but I’m not broken. I still find the strength to wake up every morning, go to work, socialize, etc. I’m still moving, breathing, trying. Maybe it’s the latter of those actions that reminds me I’m not broken.

I believe you truly break when you lose the effort to try – even in the least bit. Right now I’m still trying to learn, to love, to understand, and to forgive. More specifically, I’m trying to learn about, to love, to understand, and to forgive myself.  “Be kind to yourself,” I repeat in my head every morning, because if I am not, the day will surely outlast my energy.

Moreover, to love yourself is – in my opinion – the greatest human, emotional challenge. How often have we fallen out of love with someone or something because of revealed flaws – a chip in the paint or the shedding of skin? Every day we look in the mirror, we listen to ourselves (and others), and have to acknowledge our flaws – our faults and shortcomings. It’s hard to love yourself when you see every bandaged insecurity and stitched-up mistake. But the more you try the less broken you feel.

The more effort you make to accept yourself, the less you’ll care about how much others show their acceptance of you.

Self-judgment is the heaviest burden. Think about all the things you do to “make yourself feel better.” It’s a one-sided battle without a shield. You feel the jab of every judgment or disappointment. The only way I’ve been able to tame this internal quarrels is with a fortress of friends and loved ones, the people who have the ability to externally remind you of your worth.

But wait, there’s another obstacle.

You have to believe them. You have to trust their opinions and insights are genuine, that their care and interest are sincere. You might have control over when you feel lonely, but you can control when you are alone.

Recently I finally realized that if I already feel lonely, being alone is just going to exacerbate my stress. Solution? Be honest with your friends, and invite them into your life in that moment. If you lack the energy or imagination to make plans, be honest and ask them for options. Why? Even if you do breakdown in tears from the weight of your stress, at least you’ll have someone there to remind you of the positives when you can’t get past the flaws.

So when life feels heavy, you feel broken, and the negativity grows like a weed, remember to just try. Not “try” as in “try to feel better,” but try to trust in the genuine support of those who reach out to catch you when they see you falter. Simply try to trust yourself. It’s not an easy undertaking, but it’s certainly a valiant one.

Managing the Pain of Time

page pain

So let’s talk about time. How it passes, how it stops, how it hurts, how it heals, how it just exists.

Or how about time feels as it ticks along? If you’ve ever felt pain I’m sure a friend or two offered the sentiments, “In time, you’ll feel better.” If time’s relative, it’s not that time literally slows down or speeds up for certain people – I’m sure science has a better explanation – but that we all feel it differently.

I’d like to argue that how you experience time is directly related to how satisfied you are with our current predicament. The happier you are the less you concentrate on the moments, because they’re so great you just let them fly by. The more pain or frustration you feel the more you analyze the moments, and suddenly a minute feels like a day.

So could it all be about consciousness? Perhaps the more we fixate on our feelings, on our situation, the slower time passes for us.

People will tell you not to live in the past, but isn’t everything but our current breath the past? The struggle to live in the present will always be that – a struggle – because present constantly becomes past. Words don’t bounce back, shattered love doesn’t reassemble, and – as I’m sure you already know – you can’t be who you were yesterday.

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