Seeing what we sometimes can’t

There’s tons of bad news out in the ether. I can’t deal with it now, I don’t have the wherewithal, but I wanted to do something constructive. So I wanetd to talk about looking at the things you do and letting yourself see the good in it.

Western society — or at least this corner of Western society that I live in — thrives on hypercriticality. Things aren’t quite good enough. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and I will never be attractive enough or thin enough or charming enough on my own, so I really really need to buy a panoply of things to cover my hopeless flaws. Maybe it’s not. Anyway.

I was sitting around with friends yesterday and recounted a summary of a story I’d submitted in the hopes of getting it published and I thought at first I wouldn’t remember it properly. (Memory and I don’t get along very well, usually.) But I did, because while I fumbled for some of the particulars of the plot, I remembered the theme, and I really remembered the characters because they hooked into some of the anguish I’d been feeling and seeing when I wrote the story.

And here’s the thing: with my friends there, listening, the sock-puppet of doubt was afraid to come out.

I’m usually plagued by the little bastard, a constant background hiss of internal disapproval. I’ll be at sword practice and I’ll be screwing up (we’re supposed to screw up, we’re learning, that’s how you learn), or I’ll be writing something and I can feel it folding under its own weight of improbability, of disconnections and internal inconsistencies. But seeing my friends listening to what I was saying, engaging and not doing the dismissing thing that the sock puppet insists everyone does when I’m around, well, evidence left him on the back foot.

Heh. Foot. Sock. –Anyway.

As I explained the story, I realized a few things. One, I have a thing for trees. Two, I have a thing for generosity. Three, I don’t believe people are set to selfish-jerk by default. I can take a bit of grimdark, I can take a bit of gritty realism, but there comes a point where I get sick of it; it’s an off-key drone that doesn’t set the stage so much as grate against the ear and trigger a bit of nausea. And I used to think I had to have it, because otherwise the things I wrote wouldn’t be “realistic” enough; they’d be too perfect, too happy.

Hell with that. We have our hard times, and we have our good times. And people will be generous often because they feel like it, or maybe they’re interested in something that’s tangential to the results of the generosity. I get taken advantage of, this is true; but I think I’d prefer to be open and take my hits than just shut down, close off. It sounds like a slow spiritual starvation, and I’m not interested.

So the upshot of this conversation yesterday was that I noticed I keep returning to these things, as wrong as they might be (and I don’t think they are): that as many people are decent as they are cads, and that generosity isn’t something that marks you as naive, or as a rube. I like exploring that; I like meeting characters that lean toward that, as wounded as they might be, as overoptimistic as they might be. Sometimes strength is refusing to acquiesce. You don’t have to be nice, but you do have to be kind.

Since I have a thing for trees, I’ll leave you with one here:

Maples in Japan.

Maples in Japan.

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