Raising money for a good cause!

Greetings from London!  I’m having a great time here, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about something that’s on my mind back in the states.

My good friend Tricia is the mother of fourteen year old twin girls, and her friends are trying to help her raise money for them to be able to be on the varsity cheerleading team.  They did a lot of work to get ready for try outs, and both girls made it!

Here’s the problem, though – for both girls, fees and uniforms will cost $840, or else they can’t cheer with the team.  Tricia is a single mother who is receiving only sporadic support from the girls’ father.  She wants desperately to be able to make this happen for her daughters, but she can’t do it alone.

Tricia is an amazing person – someone I truly admire for her positive attitude despite whatever negative situation she’s facing, her self-sacrificing nature, and her seemingly uncrushable sense of humor, which allows her to laugh at situations that would make most people cry. Everything she does, she does with her twins in mind.  She’s an extremely devoted and engaged mother who will do anything she has to do to make sure her kids have a better chance than she did.

And I have to commend her for all her hard work, because it’s definitely paid off – her girls are hardworking, considerate, intelligent, love school, have ambitions, love their mother, and are generally just enthusiastic and engaged kids.

Not just that – but these girls are also self-sacrificing.  In the six years I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her girls pout, cry, get angry, or throw a fit when Tricia has to tell them know.  Instead, they tend to be the ones reassuring her that they understand that she sometimes can’t afford things, and that it’s okay.

I think that these two amazing kids and their mother deserve a bit of good karma.  I can’t think of anyone I know who deserves a break more than this family.

If you can spare even just a few dollars, please consider donating to the twins’ uniform fund. 

Cheerleading is a rigorous sport that requires a lot of physical stamina and focus, as well as a huge time commitment, while still maintaining good grades.  I honestly believe these girls can do both and excel at each, and I honestly believe it will enhance and benefit their lives in many ways.

Please, internets, help my friend out.  Even $10 would help.  Anything you can spare (provided you’ve met your own needs first.)

If you’ve read this far, thank you over and over.  If you can’t spare any money, perhaps you’ll be willing to send some good vibes their way…CM.

Possible hiatus?

Just so everyone knows, I’m traveling for the next two weeks.  I will have internet access, but given my recent depression and the fact that I’ll be having to do a lot of walking with an energy level that’s lower than normal, I don’t know how much energy I’ll have to be blogging.  I’ll try – I’ll be in London, which is an amazing city, one of my favorite places on earth, and Edinburgh, which is another really interesting city, and beautiful…especially in the rain.  I have a picture, somewhere, of Edinburgh Castle in the rain that I took during one of my previous trips.

This is actually my third trip to the UK.  It’s been 14 years since the last time I was there.

I want to update and share pics.  I intend to.  But if I don’t…I’ll be back in early October.

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So here’s a link to somewhat misguided (in my opinion) blog from The Guardian entitled, “Do you know what too fat looks like?”

In it, the author says that because more and more people are overweight or obese (using clinical terms b/c that’s what the author used), the stigma they face “must surely die away.”  And you’d think so, but actually, it’s not dying away at all.  More and more fat/size acceptance advocates are speaking up and calling our culture out on fat phobia, sizeism, etc., and that’s awesome.  But dying away?  Not quite yet.  Sizeism is still very much alive and well in our culture (and the author’s culture as well.)

The author then goes on to describe a study that showed that African American women in the U.S. have a different perception of what an overweight body looks like than medical doctors.  They used the following scale in their study:

 

 

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Turns out, the African American women surveyed identified images 8 and 9 as obese and the weight of those images as possibly unhealthy, which, according to our author, is a negative thing.

Spoiler:  According to researchers, images 2, 3, and 4 are the normal/acceptable images.  1 is underweight, 5-9 are overweight or obese.

Personally, I think white culture here and abroad can learn a lot from African American culture as far as being more accepting of different body types – I’ve read multiple studies which discuss how African Americans are more accepting of larger body types, more dismissive of standards of thinness, and very aware that beauty standards are inherently racist.  I count all of those things as positives.

The author goes on to quote one of the study’s researchers, who basically says that because African American women have a different standard of what is overweight/obese than the medical profession does, simply being told by a doctor that they’re overweight may not be enough to motivate them to lose weight.

To this I say – good for those women, because the medical profession is rife with its own weight biases and is in desperate need of an attitude overhaul and some new measurements and standards when it comes to how to work with fat patients.

Then this paragraph in particular bothered me:

“When most people around us are overweight or obese, it’s hardly surprising that we no longer notice it. Fat has begun to look normal. In one sense, that’s great – the stigma that overweight people have suffered in the past because of the way they look must surely die away. But it’s a dangerous road. If we don’t know we are overweight, we may be at risk of sleepwalking into crumbling joints, heart problems and diabetes.”

Emphasis mine – because I’m reading this as, While it’s good that stigma is dying, it’s also bad because health.  If fat people see bodies like their in images and in society, they might start to think it’s okay to be fat and then we’ll all get sick and die!

This is called fear-arousing communication, and it’s a powerful rhetorical strategy that basically aims to persuade people do to what you want them to do by scaring the ever-living shit out of them.  This sort of fear appeal contributes to stigma, because now everyone is putting themselves at risk and it’s an epidemic and WILL SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN and OMG FAT PEOPLE DRIVE UP HEALTHCARE COSTS WITH ALL THEIR FAT PEOPLE DISEASES and THEY’RE GROSS ANYWAY BECAUSE FAT IS ICKY AND UGLY AND THEY’RE ALSO DISEASED AND EW, FAT PEOPLE!  See how that works?  <– (Sadly, this is not entirely sarcastic, nor an exaggeration.)

So since we clearly can’t have fat people walking around thinking that it’s okay to be fat, the blog author comes to this conclusion:  “The researchers suggest that health messages should be accompanied by pictures of what healthy and unhealthy weight actually looks like. It’s something we are all losing sight of.”

Pictures?  You want to show people pictures of fat people so that you can label their bodies as unhealthy?

WHAT?!

So let me break this down:  Because there’s so many fatties walking around, we’re all normalizing to fatness which means the weight stigma thing is going to die out, which is apparently underscored by African American women having more tolerance for body diversity and typically disagreeing with the medical profession, thus we need to accompany already stigmatizing public health messages with actual images to make sure we’re properly body shaming people into wanting to lose weight.

To me, sounds like an advertisement for stigma and body shaming.

I have a better idea.

Let’s stop making BMI the be-all, end-all of what is fat and what isn’t, because it’s not always reliable.

Let’s start encouraging the medical profession and health researchers to check their own biases and stereotypes when they’re talking about or dealing with or studying fat people.

Let’s stop thinking that body shaming is motivating, and start focusing on health over outward appearance.  Embracing Health At Every Size (HAES) is a good way to do that.

Let’s start understanding that body weight and indication of health are mistakenly conflated and need to be separated in public consciousness.  I’m walking proof of that – I’m only thin because I have a GI system that doesn’t work correctly.  When I was fat, I was actually healthier – I worked out more, I was physically stronger, I had more stamina, and I was way more active in general than I am now.

And for god’s sake, let’s just put to rest the notion that because more people are fat, fat stigma is dying out.  This is not a neatly polarized, thin vs. fat issue.  Having more fat people in the world is not making fat stigma go away – in fact, I think the “obesity epidemic” and all the concern-trolling and stigma that has grown out of public health campaigns shows that tolerance for fat bodies is not necessary increasing along with our collective waistlines.

Also, not all fat people are okay with being fat.  There are fat people who have internalized and end up perpetuating the stigma.

And there’s a thing called stereotype threat that even fat people who are okay with being fat have to deal with.

In short – let’s start treating fat people like human beings who matter and have a right to exist, let’s stop making assumptions about other people’s health, and let’s start embracing movements like HAES which focus on positivity rather than spend copious amounts of time and resources on negative messages.

I’m willing to bet that tolerance, acceptance, and positive motivation will get us a hell of a lot further as a society than negativity will.

 

 

How I’m handling depression v. 2.0

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So after the hellish bout of depression that I dealt with from fall of 2011 until summer of 2012, I decided that this time, I’d better be more proactive about asking for help.

It’s a bit easier, this time around…but I must remind everyone that asking for help is not always easy.  If you know someone who needs help and isn’t asking, please don’t blame them for not asking, or dismiss them by saying, “If you need help, ask.”  Neither of those reactions are helpful.

Anyway.  No one worry, I’m not alone, I’m not anywhere near as badly depressed as I was a few years ago, I’m simply recognizing that the feeling is back.  The mood is back.  I know that if I let it go, I’ll sink further into it.

It’s mainly the lethargy I hate.  The lack of motivation.  How it impedes my ability to write.  A big warning sign that something’s wrong in my life is when I stop writing, or write infrequently.  For some reason, it’s hard to think during a depressive mood.  I guess that’s why the call it depression – it suppresses your ability to focus, dampens your enthusiasm, and makes you feel tired all the time.  That’s how I feel, anyway – I’m tired a lot.  I don’t have a lot of energy.  No spare energy, that’s for sure.  One workday burns me out.

One of the things that felt *so* good after coming out of the first depressive episode in 2012 was the fact that when I got home from work, I still had energy.  I would write, I would read, and it was effortless.  I had the focus.

Now I’m pretty much forcing myself, because I know what’ll happen if I don’t.  So I’ve increased my reading lately, partially because it’s a low energy activity (well, low physical energy), and it stimulates the brain.

I also get free counseling through my employer, and I’m using it.  I have a coworker who’s great about getting me to walk at lunch, and she pushes me to keep moving when I don’t really want to.  I was doing a lot of photography the past few weekends, as you can see in my previous posts, and that’s been quite therapeutic.

I’m also preparing for a trip, which is occupying a lot of my time, and is something I am looking forward to.  Mostly.  It does feel a little overwhelming sometimes – travelling takes a level of energy that I’m not quite up to – but I’m going to keep pushing myself while I’m still able to.

Last time, I lost that ability.  So again…don’t blame people in your life who can’t snap out of it, or push themselves harder, or just keep trying, etc.  I’ve been at the point where I honestly couldn’t do those things, and that’s the only reason why I’m able to now – because I understand what’s happening this time.  Last time, it took me a while to understand and accept that I was depressed.  This time I get it, and I don’t feel ashamed of it, and I’m not in denial about it.

I’m owning up to it because I think it’s important to accept that things like depression happen to a lot of people for a lot of reasons, and to dispel some of the myths around it, like the fact that people just aren’t asking for help.  Sometimes they are, but you don’t hear it.  Sometimes they can’t, or don’t want to, and they shouldn’t be chastised for that.

Depression is also not weakness, it’s not giving up, and it’s not not due to a lack of character.  It doesn’t mean you can’t function – it can, but it doesn’t always.  It’s not for attention, it’s not just something that people can snap out of, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone.  Not all of us display sadness or cry a lot – some of us just appear tired and more muted.  So don’t judge and don’t preach and don’t make assumptions.  Those things don’t help.

What helps?  For me…people who try to keep me moving in ways that I’m capable of moving – like walks and photography.  People who say, “Hey, I hear you, and I’m here,” and just leave it at that.  That’s enough, a lot of the time, for me.  I don’t like it when people are too pushy, or try to get me to open up.

I’m lucky enough to have friends and coworkers who get that, so I’m counting myself as fortunate.  I’ve pushed through depression before, and I believe, at this point, that I can do it again.  The effort it takes at times feels monumental and overwhelming, and I have moments where I want to retreat and not do the work and just find a safe place where I feel good enough and can function, but I’m not letting myself stay there.  That’s really what people need to know – I’m trying.  It’s just that trying is a slow process.

Feelings & Photography

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I’ve got stuff going on in my life at the moment.  Stressful stuff.  Stuff that zaps my energy level.  And I feel that familiar slide happening – that slide into listlessness and lethargy that happened to me back in 2011.  I don’t want it to happen again.

This time, I’m trying to be proactive.  I am seeking therapy, but that only happens once a week.  That leaves me with a lot of waking hours to fill, hours where I need to be productive and learn and support others while trying to keep myself from sinking further down into a place that makes it hard to resurface.

Unfortunately, these sorts of mental states tend to render me incapable of writing anything of significance, so I throw myself into other outlets. Lately that’s been reading (more than usual), and photography.

I always read a lot, but I’ve been reading less social science stuff (with the exception of what I read for grad school) and instead indulging in comfort books.  They’re like comfort foods – books that you can lose yourself in for a little while, books that make you feel better.

But taking pictures is helping the most this time – photography has been the best buoy.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been indulging in it a lot more than usual.  I’m planning on getting up before sunrise tomorrow to do some more.  I enjoy doing it, but it also feels therapeutic.

It’s the birds, I think.

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Maybe the butterflies.

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Maybe just the process itself.  Watching, waiting.  Being patient.  Being present.

I don’t know, exactly.  I just know that it helps.  It keeps me floating.

This week in fat news…

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In case you haven’t heard, there’s fat shaming in the new Scooby Doo.  Also, apparently a size 8 is considered fat.  And their attempt to throw in a “looks don’t matter” moral at the end of the story?  Superficial at best…and certainly doesn’t undermine the idea that being fat is bad.

Short Q&A about some truths behind obesity research.

Interesting review of a book called Fat Gay Men, which I present without comment as I am neither a man or gay, and have not yet read the book.  (Any gay men want to comment?)

5 tips from a fat positive activist on how not to be an ass when interacting with a fat girl.  I love the general tone of this piece – she’s blunt and unapologetic.  :-)

Interesting article about why nuts are awesome and you should eat them that also drives home the point that fat phobia is so rampant, that we fear all fat – often at the expense of our own health.

This week in fat news…

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This author was fat shamed during a breast cancer scare – luckily she was fine and the doctors who treated her condition after this weren’t total doucherockets.  Has anyone ever had an experience like this?  How did you react?

Republican congressman fat shamed in political ads.  Come on, guys, even Republicans should be treated with respect.  Weight has no bearing on competence to do a job.

PsychCentral explains how fat shaming does not do anything positive.  It actually causes harm.

Australian PSA receives backlash for fat shaming rhetoric, claims it’s not about fat shaming.  Here’s another link about it – it’s disgusting on multiple levels.

And because I like to end on a positive note, here’s a photo set celebrates a variety of real bodies in all different shapes, sizes, and colors – NSFW!

Fat Activism Conference!

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So there’s a Fat Activism Conference happening this weekend!  It’s totally online, and it’s totally affordable!  And included in the conference fee is access to recordings of all the sessions, in case you need to miss a few or can’t log in over the weekend.

You can read more about it and register here.

Clearly the advantage to participating live is the ability to interact, but if you’re at all interested in fat acceptance, size acceptance, weight stigma issues (particularly in healthcare) and how fat/size acceptance intersects with other stigmatized groups, I highly recommend you register, and listen to the recordings later on.

Check out the schedule – it’s a wealth of really great topics and issues.

And here are the organizers, Ragen Chastain and Jeannette DePatie.  I’m so grateful that they’ve put together such an amazing schedule of topics and speakers.  *virtual applause!*

Here’s why asking for help is hard

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This whole “ask for help” rhetoric that we’re seeing a week out from Robin Williams’ suicide is continuing to bother me.  Granted, it’s well-intended, and I definitely appreciate that people are being encouraged to ask for help, especially when resources for getting help are listed.

But here’s the thing – it’s not always as simple as asking a friend or family member for help and support.  It’s not always as simple as picking up the phone.

I can only speak from my experience, so that’s what I’m going to do.  Here’s why asking for help is very difficult for me…

[Note: Content about abusive relationships ensues.]

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The world isn’t ready for fat bodies (but fat bodies are ready for the world)

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I was out with a group of people last night that involved alcohol and unfiltered conversation.  At some point, we were talking about the different effects that different sorts of alcoholic beverages have on us, and one coworker commented that when he drinks tequila, he inevitably ends up naked.  He commented at that point, and again a second time later in the evening, that “the world isn’t ready for that yet.”

[Note: NSFW content - post includes nude photos.]

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Atheists don’t believe in nothing

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It’s always a mixture of amusing and annoying when theists say that atheists don’t believe in anything.  Just because you take the supernatural out of the mix doesn’t mean that we’re left without ethics, a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong, or the desire to do good.

I just means we don’t believe there’s a supernatural reason why we should do these things.  We don’t believe, for example, that there’s an angry god waiting to punish us if we don’t conform to certain standards.  We don’t believe in lightning bolts from heaven, either literally or figuratively.

To illustrate this point, a friend of mine posted this on his FB timeline yesterday…

Fish

(Source of meme.)

Sinful fish?  I don’t think so.  And I don’t think any Christians think so either – it’s a little atheist humor that illustrates the overarching point that we just don’t think there’s some bearded father-figure sitting in a celestial kingdom cataloging the faults over every single human being (or sea creature) on the planet.

Atheists believe that humans can be good and productive and experience growth without any supernatural powers to tell us what and what not to do.

And as the number of atheists is growing, we’re organizing and beginning to create mottos, missions, visions, communities, and generally structure ourselves a bit.  A major example of this is Sunday Assembly, also known as the Atheist Church, a godless congregation whose motto is live better, help often, wonder more.

They say, “We won’t tell you how to live, but will try to help you do it as well as you can.”

They also say, “Everyone is welcome, regardless of their beliefs – this is a place of love that is open and accepting.”

Love, tolerance, helping others, having a sense of awe and reverence, celebrating life – wow, do these not sound shockingly similar to what a lot of Christian communities profess to promote?  And all of that from a group of godless heathens!  ;-)

Point is, we’re not devoid of values.  We just don’t factor the supernatural into them.

Getting help is not as easy as it seems

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Earlier this year, we lost the amazing actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to a drug overdose, and for a while, it brought the nature of addictions to the forefront.

Yesterday, we lost another great soul – Robin Williams.  While Hoffman’s death was ruled an accident, early reports are that Williams may have committed suicide.

Since then, my twitter and Facebook feeds, as well as many news sources, have blown up with exhortations to people to ask for help and seek treatment.  And while I know that people mean well, it’s a bit misguided to assume that everyone is able to ask for help, or even realizes that they need it.

(Note: Content safe for work, no visuals, but frank discussion of depression and suicide.)

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Michael Brown did not deserve to die

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Yet another unarmed young black person is dead because white people, and particularly cops, feel that using excessive force against black people (and other people of color) is not only okay, but necessary and totally excusable.

Stereotypes allow us to dehumanize others.  They’re all on drugs.  They all have guns.  They all have prison records, or if they don’t, they will.  They’re all dangerous, and will rob/hurt/kill you if given a chance.

It’s all bullshit.

Today, Jezebel posted an article called This is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown.  It begins,

As a black person in America, it’s getting exhausting to still have to explain, in the year 2014, your right to exist in this country. To explain that you are a human being whose value sits no lower than anyone else’s. To explain our basic humanity. And perhaps, worst of all, to explain exactly why we are outraged.

Gawker’s article is called How “Reasonable” Should the Public Be About the Mike Brown Shooting?

Gawker’s article echoes my thoughts when I read about the protesting and rioting and anger that happened at the candlelight vigil.  I kept thinking…why shouldn’t they be pissed?  Why shouldn’t anyone be pissed?  If you’re not pissed, there’s something wrong with you.

Mike Brown’s death may not have happened the way the cops said – cops who, conveniently, don’t use dashboard cams.  Many witnesses are saying he was shot from 35 feet away, and had his hands up.  He was not a threat from 35 feet away with his hands in the air.

Mike Brown may or may not have confronted the cop – I don’t know.  But it seems clear that he wasn’t killed during any sort of actual scuffle – if there was one, he was killed after it had already happened.

Mike Brown was not only gunned down with multiple bullets, but his body was left lying in the middle of the road, uncovered, for hours.

Many of his friends and family those images of him lying in a pool of blood.

This was a human being.  Not a sub-human, disposable thing – this was a person, and his life mattered.

I do agree with the messages of non-violence – both the NAACP and Mike’s mother are asking people not to respond with violence.

But I don’t agree that people need to be calm.  I think people need to be incredibly fucking pissed off.

I’m glad that the senseless deaths of black people at the hands of white people with guns – be they cops or just people who claim to be “standing their ground” – are finally incurring outrage.

I’m glad that the Renisha McBride trial ended with a guilty verdict.

I’m glad that the FBI is getting involved in investigating Mike Brown’s death.

I’m glad to see things like the “IfIWasGunnedDown hastag on Twitter, raising awareness of how black people are portrayed by the media – and of the stereotypes that they have to face everyday.

I hope that there is some sort of justice for Mike Brown, who would have been starting college today.  Instead, his family is planning his funeral.

I hope there’s justice, but justice isn’t enough.  We need to see some real change in this country.  This HAS to stop.

Forgiveness and Disengagement

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Moving on means just that – to move beyond, to move past, to not stay in the same place.  But I was talking to a classmate this weekend about people who sometimes can’t do that, and how it’s okay to disengage from those people.

What forgiveness means to me is that it’s a process whereby one lets go of negative feelings, to the point where perhaps they don’t re-embrace their offender, but they at least aren’t feeling angry, vengeful, bitter, and are no longer dwelling on the offense.

Self-forgiveness is much the same, except that when it comes to yourself, do you need to go through the process of re-embracing and liking yourself in order to really be able to move on.

I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  I spent a long time not liking myself, mostly because for a long time, I was told that I shouldn’t, in both direct and indirect ways.  As I got older, I began to realize that it’s okay to be imperfect, it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them.  It’s even okay to feel bad sometimes, to have regrets, to feel depressed, to cry.

And, eventually, it’s okay to forgive yourself for the things you maybe didn’t do so well, or the times you weren’t your best self.

I think we probably all know that, right?

But here’s a somewhat more controversial statement – it’s okay to forgive yourself, even when others think that you shouldn’t.

This is a recurring theme in my life, but it’s something I’ve become more adept at recognizing so that I can respond in a way that maintains my goals, growth, and self-care.  There was a time when I would allow others to draw me back into the past, and get into arguments about what I did, or why I did it.  I allowed myself to be put in a position where I was constantly having to justify and re-justify myself, and it was leading me to keep making the same bad choices over and over and over.

Now when I see that happening, when I see someone trying to draw me back into a place where I’m expected to justify myself or apologize yet again for things that I’ve already addressed, I politely let that person know that I’m no longer willing to dwell on the past, or on the particular incident, event, or time period in question.

The reason for this?  If someone hasn’t moved past something, if they’re hanging on tightly to that time eight years ago when you said that thing to them, or generally cataloging your faults and bringing them up whenever they feel freshly wounded, then there’s nothing you can say that’s going to help let go of that catalog and see you for who you are right now.

If someone else hasn’t forgiven you, no amount of groveling, shaming, or rehashing is going to help that.   Someone who wants to see you grovel is someone who wants to see you feel humiliated – which means that that person is perhaps stuck in a place of bitterness and revenge.  And that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean you have to go there with them.

If someone still has issues with something you’ve done in the past, that’s a journey that they need to undertake, and there are times when you need to step back and allow them to do that on their own.

And as much as it seems like you should take responsibility for someone else’s feelings – I mean, I am a big proponent of not allowing intent to excuse impact – in this case, the reality is that you shouldn’t.

If you’ve evaluated your life, your actions, learned, made changes, and experienced growth – that’s excellent.  If you’ve acknowledged past faults and made a commitment to change, that’s all you can do.  And while I know that some people feel like they need the approval and/or forgiveness of others, I personally feel like it’s not essential.  The experience of others is just that – it’s their experience, and while you may perhaps have some impact on it, you have no control over it.

I’m not saying don’t apologize or don’t try to make amends.  I think those things are important.

But if you find yourself in a situation where no amount of apologizing is enough, where someone wants to constantly bringing up what you’ve done, or if you’re dealing with someone who just wants to throw the past back in your face every time they get mad at you, using it as a weapon…then it may be time to disengage, and allow them to have their experience without it derailing the growth you’ve experienced.

This is, like most things, easier said than done.  But  believe me when I say that I know from personal experience how ultimately rewarding it is to free yourself of people who will not allow you to evolve as a human being.

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