I realised today that not *everyone* is an asshole.
Bear with me. This might take a while to break down.
You know how people are getting depressed or anxious more in today’s world, right, this isn’t exactly news. There have been more meds proscribed for more conditions than ever before, and if you don’t know someone suffering from depression or anxiety you’re probably an insensitive jerk or living in the woods wearing nothing animal skins, and if it’s the latter you’re probably not reading this anyway.
I’m wondering, you know, about why this is. People are talking about how it’s the way we live life, the pace of it, or the transitory nature, or the lack of creativity, which I think are all true. These things make sense – if you’re just sweating behind a desk for The Man, you’re probably not leading a fulfilling life, especially if you’re working 60+ hour weeks and eating bad takeout in front of the couch. Maybe sometimes you’ve got time to take your socks off and have a glass of wine, or sometimes you just fall into bed with your tie still on, and wake up too early and too tired to do it all again.
I guess what I’m wondering is if some of the problem is also with us, or perhaps there’s a feedback loop going on. If we are all so busy, so much shit in our lives, work, or business travel, or trying to squeeze in a few precious moments with friends or our family, or just buying fucking coffee, well … in that world, when someone gets in our grill we have an overly negative reaction to that.
Maybe they’re not great at their job. Or, hell, maybe they’re good enough at their job, but we don’t have the time for them to be anything but excellent. And what we then say (which of course we don’t often show to other people because we’re smiling, or trying to be professional), “That asshole got in my way,” or, “That clueless moron didn’t do their job right.”
With this going on, a lot of people look like assholes all the time. Sure, there are legitimate assholes, like those fools who get to the top of an escalator and just fucking STOP, like there’s not this huge fucking machine shovelling other people right up their jacksie, the very same machine they just came up themselves, so it’s not like it’s a SURPRISE that other people are coming up the damn thing.
What I think we’re doing is starting to have more negative conversations, more of the time, because our tolerance is lower or our velocity is higher, or both. I believe that what you say sets a tone, and the tone is the thing that starts to influence your life, to the point where you see a lot of asshats and fuckery all around. You say it, perhaps as a joke, then you see it, and confirmation bias kicks in, and whether there are more red Corollas or not, everyone’s driving a red Corolla.
I hope I didn’t break the analogy.
I’m not sure there’s more asshats. I think our tolerance to deal with them is lower, being sucked out sideways by the ways we lived, and then our perception of the number of asshats is re-enforced by our negative mantras about the number of asshats.
Now let’s project here: everyone else is having the same thing, so they all think you’re an asshat. Sometimes you are, but sometimes you’ve been dealing with 27 more things than you have time for.
I don’t really want to preach about tolerance, because if some asshat said I needed to be more tolerant it would trigger my throat-punch reflex. What I’d like to preach about is two related things.
- Self-awareness, and
- Be your best self.
Everyone is doing the best they can, but sometimes that looks like being an asshat because they are totally tapped out. If you start with the view that everyone gets up in the morning trying to do the right thing, it reframes things in your head, especially when you apply it to yourself. Be aware of what you do, and *really* do your best at that moment.
I’m not talking about perfection. Perfection is for angels. I’m talking about *everyone* not stopping at the top of their own figurative escalator, but also being aware that when someone else does it, maybe they need some directions rather than a knife in the kidneys.
Because, and I think we all know this, people don’t listen until you scream. We need less screaming.