You Don’t Owe Them

Originally published May 8, 2019, but re-posted here today.

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My friends: this is one of the best things I’ve seen on any social media platform. We ALL would benefit from this. ESPECIALLY ME. So I will try to do it if you will try as well!

We all move through life in the middle of a blob. As we do, people enter our blob. Most of them pass right out of the blob in a few minutes. Sometimes they hang out in the blob for a while. And sometimes, they stay forever.

The people who stay in your blob are our lasting relationships. But not all relationships are good, even if that person stays in your blob for a really long time. So if you’ve got someone in your blob you don’t like, you don’t have to interact with them! Maybe you can get them to leave your blob, maybe you don’t, but YOU DO NOT OWE THEM ANYTHING.

And the thing you owe them the least is residence in your head. Sure, you can’t stop them from talking bout again YOU DO NOT OWE THEM ANYTHING — especially your attention.

If they’re not someone who’s opinion you respect enough to ask for it? They’re not someone who’s unsolicited opinion you need to listen to. Give ’em the boot! Banish them to the fringes of your blob! It’s YOUR blob, not theirs!

Happy blobbing, friends!

(h/t Davius for the meme and inspiration)

Do Better, Be Better

Originally published on May 1, 2019, but it remains 100% relevant today, especially as a peer.

Today’s morning thought:

It’s not enough to – want – to do better. Most people – want – to do better. I used to tell people I – wanted – to better. I would have an interaction, and then I would have an epiphany (or someone would shove one in my face hole).

I would apologize, even PROMISE to do better, and then within weeks even days, I’d be back to old behaviors. Old behaviors are easy. They’re comfortable. They’re painless and smooth

You have to BE better. You have to actually change your behavior.

And wow, that’s hard. It hurts, not just because you’re retraining your brain, but because as you do, you discover all the hurt and pain you’ve caused in the past to people who you either didn’t care about, didn’t know, or didn’t recognize.

Epiphanies mean nothing if you don’t act on them. Wanting is great as a motivator. You have to DO it.

#changenotapologies
#bemindful
#youhavetobebetter
#dothething

On Peer/Dependent Relationships

Originally published on May 5, 2019, but I decided to push it out today instead of backdating it so it would get some more views. Reading this now, over a year later and having been elevated, I’m not sure if I have changed my mind or not, honestly.

I’ve been thinking about peer-dependent relationships lately, and how they work and don’t work and the ways we regard them in the SCA. This has informed some conversations I’ve had and my view of some recent events that I’ve seen happen adjacent to me.

Firstly, I have come to the realization that I wish, fairly seriously, that we did not use a pseudo-official signifier to indicate that someone is a dependent. I understand why we do it, but in many ways, the position of dependent has come to almost indicate a status or rank that I think damages the SCA. I’m not entirely sure what to replace it with, but people could do household badges or livery on clothes or favors, and that would suffice nearly as well. It would be harder to say “I have a job for a protege/fight for a squire/project for an apprentice” and immediately pick one out of a crowd, but I’m not sure that would necessarily be a bad thing either; it would probably push people to communicate more than just look for a colored belt.

The other, larger issue is that it seems to me that a lot of peers and dependents have no idea how to resolve internal conflict. There’s no structure or process built in to their relationship to address what happens when there’s a serious disagreement, a crisis, a misunderstanding, whatever, and when it happens, all hell breaks loose.

A lot of people like to to do the “year-and-a-day” thing with new dependents, and I think that’s great, especially when the peer and dependent are initiating a new relationship. But I’m a project manager, and I believe in iterative processes. I think that peers and dependents should talk about their relationship early and often. There should a structured, yearly review, and that review should go in both directions.

I think that most people have been lucky enough to not have a peer-dependent relationship go sour on them; my experience of having that happen three times (twice with the same peer, no less) is pretty unique. I own my own mistakes and actions in those matters, and I’m not terribly interested in debating what happened; the insights I took away from those failures are that they, in many ways, stem from a lack of preparation. Add that to how we amplify these relationships as I talked about above, and you can often have a recipe for disaster.

I don’t go to a lot of vigils, but when I do, my advice to vigilants is always “have a plan for when a relationship with a dependent goes wrong”. Have someone you can turn to as a mediator. Understand your process for dissolving the relationship with as little pain as possible for all involved. Failed peer-dependent relationships don’t have to end friendships, they don’t have to destroy households, and they don’t have to end SCA careers.

Evaluate Yourself

It’s important to realize that [people in the majority] benefit from several racist and sexist constructs of society by no direct action of your own. No one wants to blame you for the actions of others, or those of your ancestors. We just want things to get better for those who have been harmed by those same constructs.

White folks: if it’s not about you, then don’t sweat it. If someone says “white men are trash” and you know that you’re not a trash white man, it ain’t about you, let it go. If someone says “all white women clutch their pearls” but you know you don’t do that, it ain’t about you, let it go.

Our egos are literally the least important thing to be thinking about right now.

Being an ally doesn’t mean you’re perfect, but it DOES mean that when you screw up, you should be willing to listen to members of the affected minority that you’ve impacted and change your behavior to do better.

Being an ally specifically means that you’re going to work to learn from your mistakes and change how you act.

Being an ally DOES NOT MEAN saying “hey be nice to this other person who has done bad things to you and your people, because they’re a potential good ally and you don’t want to alienate them.”

That is not allyship. Allies don’t speak for other people. They support them in speaking for themselves.

This is an amalgamation of this post, this post, and this post.

It’s all Life

There is no SCA life vs
Real life vs Work life.
There’s just… Life

To me, it’s especially relevant, in this Age… this Epoch of Covid, when we’re doing many of the SCA activities left to us from our desks in front of our computers, but it’s always been a truism, I suspect. As I’ve pursued my journey along the Path, different aspects have had more or less of an impact, depending on what’s going on, but at its root, when things are great, there’s no drama, and things aren’t great, well, it all sucks.

Life is what happens to you while you’re living it. The emotional turmoil you feel when you have an argument with your Peer, or when you get a bad score on an A&S entry isn’t made less valid because you happen to be wearing funny clothes at the time. When someone is mean to you in the SCA, it hurts just as much as when someone is mean to you at your job, or the supermarket. Indeed, sometimes the emotional scrapes and bruises we suffer in the SCA hurt more; many of us refer to our closest friends in the SCA as “Family of Choice” or comparable phrases. And while it’s true that SCA Royalty doesn’t have the lawful right to command soldiers to die, or to levy taxes, or imprison people, the social construct of the SCA emphasizes rank even in what we often pretend is modern egalitarian society.

This stuff matters.
And that’s okay.

In the end, stuff is just stuff, but the experiences and the relationships you have are what make you you. So don’t let anyone tell you that what happens at an SCA event isn’t real, or isn’t important.

Life is also what you do. And this is the part that you’re most responsible for: your own actions.

Here’s the thing: sure, people in the SCA take on a “persona name,” and several people construct elaborate backstories about who their persona was, where they were born, how much a silver penny was worth, etc. And that induces folks to think that they’re playing a character — IE, they’re “cosplaying” their persona. And I have no doubt that there are some people who do that, who act somewhat differently from their work persona, or their football fan persona. And there are people like me, who have a name, cause that’s fun, and wear (mostly (sometimes)) a certain kind of garb, and that’s the breadth and depth of it for us.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter if we’re play-acting, educating and learning, sport-fighting, hanging out, and/or just looking to get laid. The foundation of who we are at heart doesn’t change.

And this is the meat of it:

If you’re a racist, or a homophobe, or a bigot, or a misogynist, or you hate catholics, or muslims in your “real” life? You aren’t going to be able to leave that at the gate. (Our BIPOC friends aren’t able to leave the color of their skin or their ethnicity at the gate either.) And if you can’t leave it at the gate? You will, eventually, slip up, and show your true self.

You are
who you tell us
you are.

The governing documents call for all SCA participants to live up to the Code of Conduct. And if you are a racist, or a homophobe, or a bigot, or a sexist, or if you hate catholics or muslims? You’re not doing that. Heck, if you’re just being a big jerk you’re not doing that.

You cannot be a racist and be a good knight.
You cannot be a homophobe and be a good pelican.
You cannot be a misogynist and be a good sovereign.

Because life is just life. And you can’t really be someone different just because of the clothes you’re wearing.

Just Don’t.

Everyone’s Facebook wall (or blog or Insta or whatever) is their own to do with as they please. I’d never argue otherwise. But telling someone “if you don’t like it, leave” when an image gives them an actual panic attack is pretty unkind, and telling them that your fear & pain is more valid than theirs is shitty as fuck.

Manipulating someone else’s pain to try and assuage your own is even more shitty as fuck.

And justifying that by implying that it’s ok because they’re not your friend is the most shitty as fuck of all.

Nobody wins the Pain Olympics.

Always try to follow Wheaton’s Law.

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As for Goodness

As for Goodness – you yourself desire rank and standing; then help others to get rank and standing. You want to turn your own merits to account; then help other to turn their to account – in fact, the ability to take one’s own feelings as a guide: that is the sort of thing that lies in the direction of Goodness.

Lúnyŭ (Analects)

On Leadership

Originally published on August 10, 2019, but relevant enough that I wanted to bring it back up now. I wrote it for two Protégé groups I was in at the time (and I’m not anymore, of course) but I feel like it’s relevant still.

So I don’t really want to talk about failed leaders; people who are in positions of authority or rank, who aren’t good leaders. Instead, what I want to talk about is the very last thing that Sinek says in this clip here:

“But the rank itself is not what makes you a leader, it just gives you a leadership position.”

Nothing he’s saying here should be a surprise to anyone — we all know of people who have been promoted beyond their level of competence; at work, in our hobbies, the military, the grocery store, heck, look at the very top of the US government and you can barely swing a congressional subpoena without hitting someone who is in a position of immense authority who can’t lead a group of devoted followers out of a paper bag. Stephen King books are FULL of these types, and they’re almost always the ones who end up dead, hurt, or imprisoned because of it.

In short: the world is full of petty tyrants in all walks of life, and while SOME of them are this way because they’re actually not great people, a large number are like this because they don’t actually know how to lead. They haven’t been taught.

Which is what makes those people who -can- inspire and lead, no matter what their actual rank or position, so special. I’m privileged to know several of them. But… I’m not going to name them, because invariably posts where we start talking about the people we appreciates most (is THAT what you appreciates most about me, Squirrely Dan?) they end up being mutual admiration circle jerks, and that’s not what I’m trying to discuss here.

Instead, consider these four questions:

1) What are the qualities of leadership that you admire the most?

2) How do these qualities of leadership manifest in the people around you? This includes your co-workers, your boss, even the people who you supervise, as well as your various circles of friends and larger social groups.

3) What qualities of leadership do you see in the people you don’t like, who inexplicably (you may think) are able to inspire and lead their friends, or co-workers, or direct reports? Note: this can be something negative – in your opinion – but still seems to inspire others. Take that step back. Look at things unemotionally. Like I said, it’s not a circle jerk of mutual appreciation.

4) MOST IMPORTANTLY: How can you incorporate these qualities of leadership that you value into your everyday life? How can -you- become a better leader?

A big part of why this clip resonates with me SO MUCH is the acknowledgment of the person in the trenches, with the rest of us, who looks to the left, and looks to the right, and says “I’m going to be there for these people.”

That’s what I try to do, every day.