Important To Be Nice

To Jessica.

Seven years. A quarter of our lifetimes. That is how long it has been since we last saw each other. Somewhere in that time was the last hug as sisters. The last smile at each other’s eyes. The last "sister day" in Uptown Whittier, or the park. Last introduced each other as ‘my twin’ - something I was very proud to do.

Seven years since the day you didn’t want me to be part of our family anymore.

I remember it very clearly - we were 23 years old the day blood ceased being thicker than water for you.

I once read in an Awake! magazine that a breakup was as hard to deal with as death, as the other person had made a choice to cut you out of their life. It feels like you lose a limb, it said, and you have to learn to adapt to life that way.

But what do you lose when your twin sister does the cutting?

I’ll tell you. Part of your identity. You end up half the person you used to be, and to be completely honest, it’s been impossibly hard to adapt to life like that.

You are gone, but the memories aren’t. Past times of a shared childhood under the southern Californian sun. My twin sister and I, sitting on the rooftop while we did our homework together; Walking around the track after school and talking about everything and nothing while we waited for dad to come pick us up; Writing silly skits and song parodies together; Listening to The Beatles together and borderline obsessing over them; Being silly together in the local parks and taking pictures to capture the moments; Going to Crossed Keys shows together; Going to the Renaissance Faires together; Being silly with the cats and bragging about who got the most kitty hugs and kisses.

I was your partner in crime, but — I know I was also the pain in your neck. I feel so much guilt over not letting you decorate the room the way you liked when it was your turn. I also picked up horrible things when I was really little from watching and hearing mom and dad when they would fight, and just like Amber would use those things to hurt me, I would use those things to hurt you. It's one of the things that I have immense trouble forgiving myself for. I don't know if you remember this, but I remember apologizing to you about that after you came home from Arkansas, as we sat in the parked car at Neff Park, and you said you forgave me as you cried and hugged me — and I thought it was in the past after that, but that was naive of me to think it could be as simple as that. I may not ever be able to fix how I hurt you, but I really am so deeply sorry about that, I mean truly.

But then — when you let me into your world, I felt a queen.

I'm sure you can relate to this, but I spent all my childhood practically nameless — I was known as ’your twin’; but you know what? I wore that adjective like a badge of honor. It always made me feel special and, ironically, unique. I was a TWIN, which made us more than sisters. But to be honest, I never truly experienced how special that bond was until we were in home school, writing our skits and song parodies together, and then falling in love with LiveJournal together. Man, I wanted to do EVERYTHING with you after that. I discovered how funny and creative you were, and I was just SO proud that you were my twin.

But then Arkansas happened. I thought us moving back to California "undid" that decision, but for you, I don't think it did — and I didn't understand that, even though I tried to have fun with you when you came back home, I really did. I thought that having fun with me back at home would help, but looking back, it was probably like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound — and that's another thing in my life that I wish I could take back.

And then finally, at 23, I started talking to a boy that was interested in me — and it was the first time I actually felt interested back, and I got caught up in that magic. But the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt anyone, or god forbid, sacrifice everyone just for his attention. That was never what I wanted. Ever.

And losing you, most of all, was my biggest fear.

But the situation got the best of you and mom, and suddenly it was all ‘too late’ to try to uncomplicate everything that got in the way. Without seemingly a second thought, I was thrown overboard into troubled waters too deeply, and now had to drown in the sea of loss.

And before you ask me why I chose the hard road, please ask yourself why you think that I saw two roads.

I am sorry for the pain that it caused you and mother, but that was never my intention. Both of you decided to disfellowship me in place of the elders, so how could I have redeemed myself, or lessened the pain, at that point? And if I had tried to come back home to you, do you honestly believe (in your heart of hearts) that you would have resisted mercilessly kicking me further still while I was already down on my knees? At that point in time, you had me absolutely convinced that I was unwanted and unloved. I truly believed that I could not go back.

We said some incredibly cutting things in anger those first few years I was on the east coast — which made moving on that much harder, and for my own part in that escalation, I apologize. I was in an incredible amount of pain.

But seven years of that later, I don't want to believe that it's final. I've been swimming in that sea of doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, regret, pain, desire, longing and a need to rectify, to undo, to correct, to reaffirm, to try again — and dear god, I desperately hope that the next time we speak isn't in 20 years at our parent's funeral — just because I wanted to have romantic attention from a boy when I was 23.

I miss you, and I want this horrible estrangement to end. I want my sister back — that is, if you're also willing to finally put the past in the past, and be a part of your twin sister's life again. Let's put this all behind us already.

Seven years.

Please don't add to that number.

Your twin sister,

(I wrote this in 2018. We've, thankfully, reconnected since.)
Important To Be Nice

Sometimes, it helps just to talk to someone. Someone who will listen and not judge.

I'd like to say that kindness is easy. That it's simple.

But, it's not always.

Ever been accused of being selfish or self-centered, for one reason or another? I have. Ever have your friends, your family, and your church tell you that you don't deserve good things because you have too much "wrong" with you? I have. How did you react? I bet it hurt, whether the accusation was baseless or not. Did you get angry? Did you want to retaliate or just give up? Did it make you turn away from the things that you love? It made me.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would have managed these stresses just fine, and I would have come out the stronger for it in hardly any time at all. Unfortunately, I had cruelly been denied the chance to grieve the many major losses in my life in a healthy way. My family, my friends, my church — established institutions that stretch back to childhood, when we need predictability in the care we receive the most - let loose all of their rage for the "sins" that I had committed (it was now "out" that I was... gasp... an agnostic girl with an atheistic boyfriend), like an army of people swinging axes at my head and my heart as hard as they possibly could.

And it wasn't satisfying enough to watch me squirm in agonizing pain at the ends of my hooks. They also had to desperately try to cut off all of my lifelines (either by blackmailing and threatening anyone that they had any influence over, or gossiping and slandering my reputation — as fast as their mouths could speak and fingers could type), just to ENSURE that I would absolutely die inside from the pain, agonizingly and slowly, in complete and total abandonment, with absolutely any and all doubt removed that I was utterly unloved, unwanted, and worthless.

This sudden mass betrayal was quite successful in limiting the strength and the number of my social connections, and isolating me from the rest of the world — because, you know, the psychological trauma of not knowing who to trust anymore simply wasn't bad enough.

Therefore, in addition to the horrific amount of mental and emotional agony, calling into question everything that I believed to be true, and striking so many aspects of my identity — which deepened my psychological trauma to such a great capacity, that it affected my brain functioning long after they no longer had any power over me (which began autumn 2011). One of these changes was the development of a hyper-vigilance to "further assaults". This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, I suppose, in that the hyper-vigilance may protect us from haplessly wandering into another psychological injury - unfortunately, though, hyper-vigilance is not a great discriminating device. It exists primarily to put the individual on global red alert that danger is afoot. It creates a suspicion of future betrayals and tempts us to look for lies elsewhere — in my husband, in his family members, in my co-workers, in my neighbors — EVERYONE.

The worst part is, in as hyper-vigilant of a state as I was in, this distrust was not even misplaced. I only continued to be emotionally neglected and abused, over and over again, and from various sources, after I had moved far away from my birth family in California. As a result, the extent to which I have been emotionally and mentally scarred since January of 2011 is beyond my ability to articulate. To say that I became extremely anxious and distrusting, and went from being an enthusiastic adherer of, to doubting, to bitterly disbelieving in the inherent goodness of the world, is a horridly gross understatement.

However optimistic, brave, strong I may have been at the outset of all of this — the fact of the matter is, I have simply been forced through (and have been forced to lose) far too much at one time in my life, and as much extraordinary inner strength as I had had, the brain and the heart can only endure so much pain and agony at once.

Meanwhile, as this was all happening, I was also forcing myself to grieve as quickly as I could because I had too many people (after I had moved) overstepping their boundaries by telling me that I "could not afford the time" to recover — and in the midst of my enormous emotional upheaval, confusion, and trauma, I truly believed that I had no other choice but to listen, even though I immediately knew for a damn fact that they were wrong. I was greatly judged, disbelieved, and put down by my in-laws for being in the enormously fucked up emotional state that I was in; I was met with hardly any human compassion or empathy; I was accused of making it up, or of simply being "fragile" (and, in the beginning, this also included my husband).

So, there I was, struggling to hurriedly regain my emotional equilibrium — after months of extreme mental and emotional abuse and trauma - to no avail, because grief simply cannot be forced, and this only made my struggle to rebuild my life (on the other side of the country, living with my boyfriend for the very first time after only having a long-distance relationship with him, as well as getting used to living with his family, and going through a desperate and intense search for work — oh, and also struggling to maintain good grades in school). It felt like running a marathon with no end in sight at full speed after both of my legs had been completely shattered. What other option had I? Otherwise, I was useless, and I'd be the race horse that would have to be put down. I had no other choice but to pretend I wasn't in pain, and never mind when other people would scoff at my miserable efforts to run alongside those who had twenty or more years the racing experience that I had, because life tends to be very fair like that. And the funny thing is, I was actually very lucky.

Trust me when I say that there is nothing more precious to us than our ability to trust our perceptions. When we can't trust our own perceptions, we become more vulnerable to the perceptions of others because we cannot tell black from white for ourselves - which makes false perceptions suddenly so much more crippling, and unforgivable. Otherwise, baseless accusations could just be shrugged off. When we know better, what's another person's opinion to us? But when we suddenly can't, and when those other people know it, and they disregard it (like my in-laws) - or, worse, use it to their advantage in a cruel way (like my birth family and stalker ex-friends) - suddenly, it's enough to send planets crashing into dust. And it doesn't matter if those accusations are baseless or not - it just fucking hurts.

But doesn’t that feeling just make the accusation seem more accurate? Or, does it just prove that we are human, and thus subject to feelings of hurt and humiliation, anger and animosity?

When we can't trust our own perceptions anymore, how do we manage this?

You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one. People who go out of their way to hurt you are, in all probability, dependent on the opinions of others for their own happiness, and so they assume the same of you — that their disapproval will crush you because the disapproval of others would, or already has, crushed them. Are they right? Go ahead and ask yourself if you hang on the balance for the praise of others, like a hamster in a cage waiting for a drop of water from it's drinking bottle. Well, why DO you do good things? Is it because you want others to SAY you are good? Is it because you are afraid of the consequences of doing bad? Is it because you want to obey your god? Is it because you genuinely want to make someone happy? Is it because you want to be happy?

Are you really just being your natural self?

In the end, it doesn't matter how good or bad you feel inside, or what people will think, or if they will question your motives — and they will. Of course they will.

The only friend that I ever regretted losing was myself.
Important To Be Nice

Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.

Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.

Stop wasting time on the wrong people. Stop lying to yourself and others. Stop trying to be someone you're not. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. Stop trying to hold onto the past. Stop being afraid to make a mistake. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. Stop trying to buy happiness. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. Stop being idle. Stop thinking you're not ready. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. Stop being jealous of others. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. Stop blaming. Stop holding grudges. Stop following the path of least resistance. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. Stop trying to make things perfect. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. Stop worrying so much. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. Stop holding yourself back. Stop being ungrateful. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. STOP.

There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble, and fall. The most painful part of loving someone too much isn't the lack of reciprocation, but losing yourself in the process. It's when you forget that you and your own pain matters, too. Be yourself. It's okay.

The right people will love the real you, and that is ALL that matters.
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Important To Be Nice

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you will join us.

If it wasn't for the subcultural tie of free love and experimental drug use for pleasure, I'm pretty sure that I would have made a damn good hippie. In my early adolescent years, I went through an obsession with the sixties generation; and while I may no longer be obsessed with it, it's safe to say that I will always be a flower child at heart.

It may be a 1960's cliché to say that I want peace on earth, but that's all I really want. Perhaps these ideals are unrealizable or at odds with "practical" life, or naïvely at variance with empirical observations of the real world - many realists would agree with this; I'm very much aware of that.

Typically, I don't like to place a label on myself, and I dislike when other people do this for me. I'm not a jar. Don't label me. On the one hand, I think it would be fairly accurate to call myself an idealist; yet, on the other hand, I don't feel that I'm being entirely fair to myself here - perhaps it's more accurate to say that I am of an idealistic persuasion? Even still, I feel that many aspects of my character are being largely ignored with that small statement; it implies that I'm basing these views on little more than a childish fantasy and wishful thinking; that I have not placed that much thought into them. I'm more of a cynical idealist, as oxymoronic as that may sound - though there is something harsh or dismissive implied in the word 'cynical', and, for me, it imports that nuance, which is a rather high price to pay for the pleasure of the paradox. Then, perhaps it would be more accurate to say 'skeptical' rather than 'cynical'? - yet neither word is really correct, because, whether skeptical or cynical, I am also, by turns: trusting, extraordinarily optimistic, and admittedly - again - a bit naïve, even - yet, I still have this hope; this belief - a personal gospel, if you'll pardon the expression - that keeps me, despite all of the bitter things that I've seen and have tasted in my own short-lived life, optimistic and idealistic.

All this having been taken into consideration, I'm going to emphasize one more time, before moving on with my thought, that it would be incorrect to attempt to label me [or anyone else, for that matter] under any sort of umbrella term - because I am all of those things on a cinemascope scale. I believe that no one can be adequately described by reference to one characteristic. Such as we are, we’re too divided; too psychologically diverse for that.

Now, the realist should keep this in mind when I speak out my idealistic views: I am not always positive. Anyone who knows me, knows this about me. I do not hide behind rose-coloured glasses [as somewhat of a side point: because I can see my own fluctuations, this means that I have the possibility of becoming more consistent with myself in time...] - but when I am optimistic, I try to project it; try to share it with others, because I feel that this is what people need most right now: HOPE.

Perhaps on a subconscious level, I'm also trying to compensate for the times that I'm gloomy and overly-pessimistic, but during those times that my outlook is on an upswing, I try my best to rally up some hope so that we have, at least, a fighting chance at a peaceful and just world - though I know we are nowhere near close to that at the moment, nor in fact have we ever been. People needed to be shown how to be strong. I want to encourage people to believe, through the quality of my life, that even in the presence of such unspeakable evil, there is a brotherhood of good and just people - no matter how small. Now I'm reminded of something Emilie Autumn said in an interview, when speaking of her song "By The Sword" [source]:

The concept behind the song is simple: a knight for the modern world travels the lands in search of her brothers and sisters in arms, those who serve and protect and fight for right. It is about strength, in the same way that Merlin says, "If Right is not Might, it is Evil." This is not a declaration of violence, far from it. It is merely a statement: We will actively enforce right and good through our thoughts, our words, and our deeds, whatever this may mean to you. We believe that our modern "knights of the round table" still exist, and I can tell you quite factually that they do.

There are so many among us who go unrecognized every day; people who do good and help others and uphold justice in their own way, but they don't make it onto the nightly news - so we feel more surrounded with bad guys than with good.

Going back to the song, it's a promise to band together with all the unseen knights in invisible armor and be as noble and strong as those in legend. It's very important to remember that we have sisters and brothers; it makes everything much more bearable.

I'm a staunch believer that one's attitude - one's being, or, more accurately, one's reason for being here - strongly affects one's actions, and as a consequence, affects the world around him or her. I may be just one person, and you may just be one person, but we are more powerful than we may believe at times; we are more than our individual presence, and while we may not have some mass following, we affect the world around us much more than may be evident to us - and this is why our attitudes, our outlook of the world, and our hope for the future is so paramount. Consider this thought for just a moment: If you speak, what you say doesn’t end here ... vibrations go on and on, infinitely - and therefore, every action goes on and on, infinitely, and has its effect. If you think carefully about the effect you’re going to create, there’s more chance for all of us. It’s hard to think of your every move, but your attitudes to life will have an effect on everyone – and thereby, the universe.

The way I see it, the first key to 'changing the world' for the better is self-transformation. When considering how to improve the world, people almost always focus their attention outside themselves, which too often leads to resistance, confrontation, frustration and defeat. The reality is, the only thing over which we actually have any real control over is our own attitudes and behavior.

"The hardest thing is facing yourself. It’s easier to shout ‘Revolution’ and ‘Power to the people!’ than it is to look at yourself and try to find out what’s real inside you and what isn’t; when you’re pulling the wool over your own eyes. That’s the hardest one."

- John Lennon

It is an art which is expressed in and over a lifetime. To change our being, we need to transform negative emotion, and that transformation begins - not with a direct attack upon hatred, or a direct incitement to love - but with self-consciousness; with the first conscious shock. It's one of those rare glimpses of the reality of self-remembering.

“It is our own mental attitude which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful, or our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light. First, believe in this world, that we are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”

- Swami Vivekananda

The second part, of course, is in acting upon our being made self-aware. For me, being made self-aware - to remember who I am, if you will - it reminds me of mankind's innate ability to reason, and this gives me hope for people as a collective whole.

We all need to understand that simply wanting love, or wanting to love, is not enough - yet, when it comes to acting on these idealistic visions, it's imperative to always bear in mind that the key to positive change lies first and foremost within yourself - it does not lie in focusing on other people. There's a popular saying: "People don't want to hear a sermon - they want to see one." There's another famous quote, by Gandhi, that fits in here quite nicely: "Be the change that you want to see in the world." It's important to understand that focusing all of your energy on telling others what they should or should not be doing, would have the opposite of the desired effect and, therefore, would be a colossal waste of valuable time.

We cannot love on demand.

Therefore, it is counterproductive to demand love from others.

People need to be given a reason to love; they need inspiration and motivation - not intimidation. Fear never breeds love. Ask any abuse victim. This approach would not motivate more people into being more just, peaceful or loving - no, something else must come first, before the commandment to love can be reliably fulfilled; namely, we must love, and be lovable, before we can ask for love - and to see love in action would breed confidence and courage. People need to feel safe and strong before they can open themselves up to love.

Having faith in humanity's ability to reciprocate love, therefore, is vital; in order to attain this, we first must make that transformation within ourselves - which is exactly why I stated that self-realization and awareness is the very important first step. Without having faith and love in ourselves, we cannot have faith and love in other people. It is simply impossible.

With that being said, I maintain my faith in the following:

• The ability to reason is fundamentally humanistic and secular.
• Individuals are capable of being inspired to love.
• Individuals are capable of finding their own best natures.
• Individuals, through their love, can unite and co-exist among others.
• Individuals, through the power of their words and actions, can change the world.
• Through these altruistic aims, we can give life meaning.

Many skeptics would say in reply to me, right here, that the twisted logic and apparent poor understanding that is ever so abundant in the world is undeniable evidence that mankind as a whole has no hope; that, generally speaking, man has lost his ability to reason, and there is, at best, only an enlightened few in the world - to take it even further, many skeptics will use this line of reasoning to justify hatred, prejudice, or even violence, against the majority of mankind.

I came across this quote randomly across the internet, and I wish that I could claim that I wrote it, because it's word-for-word, exactly what I believe as well. These are my thoughts exactly on this matter:

Human beings have spent centuries shunning, demonizing and murdering people for critical thinking and intellectual honesty, yes. We - mankind as a whole - may have damaged ourselves to the point that it will take decades, or perhaps centuries, of effort to recover - but the genie is out of the bottle now, and it will never be put back. It's not wishful thinking; we really do have reason to hope. Consider: Human beings have more of a voice now than ever before. While it may be true that not everyone in the world exercises their right to free will, this trend of thinking for yourself does not show any sign of slowing down; quite the contrary. Free thought and critical thinking is only gaining more ground and acceptance in our societies, and it can only continue do so, if we are to progress - and any culture that falls behind in the race to be the most advanced, will simply be swallowed by the others. People do not rush to immigrate to backward totalitarian theocracies for a reason. What we can do now, is give ourselves - and others - hope by being a part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. Humanity's right to think freely is worth struggling for.

"What we can do now, is give ourselves - and others - hope by being a part of the solution, instead of part of the problem."

I stress this part of the above quote because, without even realizing it, many 'free-thinking' people actually slow down this process of inspiring others to decide for themselves, by denying any who disagree with their personal belief system and train of thought; by denying them of their free will. Many self-proclaimed "free thinkers" often mistakenly create paradoxes.

As a very common example seen in the world - I will use the issue of religion to illustrate my point. Many argue that religion slows the process of free thought, and that religion - and all religious persons - should, therefore, be eradicated. This logic caves in on itself. By forcing other people to completely eliminate religion, really, how are we progressing? We are still forcing our opinions on others. Isn't this the real problem, here? That, supposedly, religion denies free thinking? So it's the moral duty of all non-religious persons to educate and attempt to free those trapped in delusion? It gives me such déjà vu - this all sounds so strangely reminiscent of religious persons imposing their beliefs on others to free them from eternal damnation.

So this is progress?

By becoming what we hate, we're making a positive change in the world?

"Free thinkers" who deny that humans have free will on issues such as these, is really saying that people *other than he* is not allowed to have free will.

Hypocritical much?

There's another famous saying: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind". This would create nothing but a vicious cycle of imposing opinions onto the rest of society. For some people, 'agreeing to disagree' would, somehow, acknowledge the validity of the other's beliefs which implicitly contradict their own beliefs, and they feel the need to prove them wrong - and history simply repeats itself, over and over and over again.

Where does the cycle end?

We recognize the unlimited right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief, and that freedom to practice one’s religion should be limited only by the need to respect the rights of others.

We assert the need for a society based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. History has shown that the most successful societies are the most secular. We assert that the only equitable system of government in a democratic society is based on secularism: state neutrality in matters of religion or belief, favoring none and discriminating against none.

We affirm the right of believers and non-believers alike to participate in public life and their right to equality of treatment in the democratic process. We affirm the right to freedom of expression for all, subject to limitations only as prescribed in international law – laws which all governments should respect and enforce. We reject all blasphemy laws and restrictions on the right to criticize religion or nonreligious life stances.

We support the right to secular education, and assert the need for education in critical thinking and the distinction between faith and reason as a guide to knowledge, and in the diversity of religious beliefs. We support the spirit of free inquiry and the teaching of science free from religious interference, and are opposed to indoctrination, religious or otherwise.

- Copenhagen Declaration on Religion in Public Life

↑ This, right here - THIS is what progress looks like.

Through the course of writing up this post, I think I discovered a much more accurate term by which to refer to myself: Humanitarian. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm sick of seeing the world in pain.

Perhaps I really am dreaming of nothing more than an imaginary world, where people live in peace and harmony - but I still stand by my opinion that what people really need right now, is not someone pointing out the obvious flaws of the world in which we live. What people need most in a dark and violent world is sunlight of vision. IMAGINE living in peace.

My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”

- John Lennon

And this is my aim, as well.