The flail she held in her hand was growing heavy, heavier than it had felt in the whole of the battle before. The blood of the men she had slain was still splattered on her armor, the memory of their dying cries burning her soul. It had been her choice, her decision to take this castle. Her decision to lead the troops into battle.
Her choice to risk her unborn child in combat. Assault this place now, breaking the peace treaty and slaying all the people within. Just to prevent the risk that the people here would one day do the same, attack her people and her child when she was unprepared. She could never risk that; she’d rather sentenced the people here to die, even if it meant spilling some innocent blood.
“You have seen”, she whispered to the starry sky above the battlements. The stars saw all that happened below them – right or wrong, they’d be the ones to cast judgment. “Sentence me into an eternity of hell and brimstone, I do not care,” she said softly.
“For my child is safe now.”
The picture of the flailer is drawn by Muhrri. Used with permission; it is not covered by the usual Creative Commons license on this site.
This work by Kaj Sotala is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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I've said a lot about depression, self-compassion, and breakup blues.
I haven't said much about burnout. I have that too. Have had for years, in fact.
This is just the first time that I've had a chance to stop and heal.
I did a day of work last week, the first one I've done since the end of November. It went well. It felt good. So I thought I would try to get a full week's worth of work done.
Then I basically crashed again.
Sometimes, your skin feels sensitive and raw. Everything is, not if outright painful, then at least unpleasant to touch.
That's how I feel today, and on a lot of days. Except that the skin is my mind, and the things that I touch are thoughts about things to be done.
Goals. Obligations. Future calendar entries. But even things like a computer game I was thinking of playing, or a Facebook comment I'm thinking of replying to. Anything that I need to keep track of, touches against that rawness in my mind.
That's another big part of why I've been so focused on self-compassion recently. On being okay with not getting anything done. On taking pleasure from just being present. On enjoying little, ordinary things. Because that's all I have, on moments like this.
I'm getting better. There are fewer days like this. There are many days when I'm actually happy, enjoying it when I do things.
But I'm still not quite recovered. And I need to be careful not to forget that, lest I push myself so much that I crash again.
> ... while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience. There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.
> [...] The big story for me personally over the past few years has been my ability to open myself up to commitment. I’ve chosen to reject all but the very best people and experiences and values in my life. I shut down all my business projects and decided to focus on writing full-time. Since then, my website has become more popular than I’d ever imagined possible. I’ve committed to one woman for the long haul and, to my surprise, have found this more rewarding than any of the flings, trysts, and one-night stands I had in the past. I’ve committed to a single geographic location and doubled down on the handful of my significant, genuine, healthy friendships.
> And what I’ve discovered is something entirely counterintuitive: that there is a freedom and liberation in commitment. I’ve found increased opportunity and upside in rejecting alternatives and distractions in favor of what I’ve chosen to let truly matter to me.
> Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
> In this way, the rejection of alternatives liberates us—rejection of what does not align with our most important values, with our chosen metrics, rejection of the constant pursuit of breadth without depth.
> Yes, breadth of experience is likely necessary and desirable when you’re young—after all, you have to go out there and discover what seems worth investing yourself in. But depth is where the gold is buried. And you have to stay committed to something and go deep to dig it up. That’s true in relationships, in a career, in building a great lifestyle—in everything.
-- Manson, Mark. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Often when we are in pain, what we really want is some validation for the pain.
Not advice. Not someone trying to make that pain go away (because it discomforts them). But someone to tell us that it's okay to be in pain. That the things that bother us, are valid and normal reasons to feel bad about.
Much of self-compassion seems to be the same. Not trying to stop being in pain. Not trying to change yourself. But giving yourself the validation that we usually look for from the outside. Accepting it as a part of yourself, as something that is alright to feel. Something that you can sympathize with yourself for feeling.
And if you find that you cannot accept the pain...
Then you unjudgingly accept that too. That today, this pain is too much for me to bear. You just are with it, without trying to change it.
And if you find that you cannot do that either, and feel bad and guilty for being so bad at this self-compassion thing...
Then you accept that, without trying to change it.
And if you find yourself being kinda okay with being in pain, but still wanting to change it, still wanting to explicitly apply some technique for deeper self-compassion rather than just accepting everything...
Then you accept that, and let yourself do it.
Dealt with in this way, self-compassion oddly starts looking like not really doing anything in particular. After all, you just go about living your life as you always have, not trying to change anything about yourself. Or trying, if that's what you're like. Not trying to exert any particular control over your behavior, except when you do.
Yet somehow you end up feeling quite different from normal.
(Except when you don't, which is also fine.)
Whoa. This is the most important point about polarization that I've heard in a long time:
> Many pundits remarked that, during the 2016 election season, very few Americans were regularly exposed to people whose political ideology conflicted with their own. This is true. But it cannot be fixed by Facebook or news media. Exposing people to content that challenges their perspective doesn’t actually make them more empathetic to those values and perspectives. To the contrary, it polarizes them. What makes people willing to hear difference is knowing and trusting people whose worldview differs from their own. Exposure to content cannot make up for self-segregation.
> If we want to develop a healthy democracy, we need a diverse and highly connected social fabric. This requires creating contexts in which the American public voluntarily struggles with the challenges of diversity to build bonds that will last a lifetime. We have been systematically undoing this, and the public has used new technological advances to make their lives easier by self-segregating. This has increased polarization, and we’re going to pay a heavy price for this going forward. Rather than focusing on what media enterprises can and should do, we need to focus instead on building new infrastructures for connection where people have a purpose for coming together across divisions. We need that social infrastructure just as much as we need bridges and roads.
> A lot of people hesitate to take responsibility for their problems because they believe that to be responsible for your problems is to also be at fault for your problems.
> Responsibility and fault often appear together in our culture. But they’re not the same thing. If I hit you with my car, I am both at fault and likely legally responsible to compensate you in some way. Even if hitting you with my car was an accident, I am still responsible. This is the way fault works in our society: if you fuck up, you’re on the hook for making it right. And it should be that way.
> But there are also problems that we aren’t at fault for, yet we are still responsible for them.
> For example, if you woke up one day and there was a newborn baby on your doorstep, it would not be your fault that the baby had been put there, but the baby would now be your responsibility. You would have to choose what to do. And whatever you ended up choosing (keeping it, getting rid of it, ignoring it, feeding it to a pit bull), there would be problems associated with your choice— and you would be responsible for those as well.
> Judges don’t get to choose their cases. When a case goes to court, the judge assigned to it did not commit the crime, was not a witness to the crime, and was not affected by the crime, but he or she is still responsible for the crime. The judge must then choose the consequences; he or she must identify the metric against which the crime will be measured and make sure that the chosen metric is carried out.
> We are responsible for experiences that aren’t our fault all the time. This is part of life.
> Here’s one way to think about the distinction between the two concepts. Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day. You are choosing to read this. You are choosing to think about the concepts. You are choosing to accept or reject the concepts. It may be my fault that you think my ideas are lame, but you are responsible for coming to your own conclusions. It’s not your fault that I chose to write this sentence, but you are still responsible for choosing to read it (or not).
> There’s a difference between blaming someone else for your situation and that person’s actually being responsible for your situation. Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things. You always get to choose the metric by which to measure your experiences.
> My first girlfriend dumped me in spectacular fashion. She was cheating on me with her teacher. It was awesome. And by awesome, I mean it felt like getting punched in the stomach about 253 times. To make things worse, when I confronted her about it, she promptly left me for him. Three years together, down the toilet just like that.
> I was miserable for months afterward. That was to be expected. But I also held her responsible for my misery. Which, take it from me, didn’t get me very far. It just made the misery worse.
> See, I couldn’t control her. No matter how many times I called her, or screamed at her, or begged her to take me back, or made surprise visits to her place, or did other creepy and irrational ex-boyfriend things, I could never control her emotions or her actions. Ultimately, while she was to blame for how I felt, she was never responsible for how I felt. I was.
> At some point, after enough tears and alcohol, my thinking began to shift and I began to understand that although she had done something horrible to me and she could be blamed for that, it was now my own responsibility to make myself happy again. She was never going to pop up and fix things for me. I had to fix them for myself.
> When I took that approach, a few things happened. First, I began to improve myself. I started exercising and spending more time with my friends (whom I had been neglecting). I started deliberately meeting new people. I took a big study-abroad trip and did some volunteer work. And slowly, I started to feel better.
> I still resented my ex for what she had done. But at least now I was taking responsibility for my own emotions. And by doing so, I was choosing better values— values aimed at taking care of myself, learning to feel better about myself, rather than aimed at getting her to fix what she’d broken.
> (By the way, this whole “holding her responsible for my emotions” thing is probably part of why she left in the first place. More on that in a couple chapters.)
-- Manson, Mark. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (Kindle Locations 1370-1409). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.