#52: Life is all about people
Some thoughts on learning to be kind and gentle, and unlearning to be frantic and anxious
Before I dive into this post (it’s going to be a goodie, I promise!) I want to give a shoutout to Astrid Wilde.
Astrid is a friend who I met on the Internet through Twitter. Our online writing journeys brought us together, and it is legit amazing how the pandemic has opened new avenues for connection.
The pandemic certainly spawned tragedy and fear, but it also created opportunities for growth and transcendence.
This morning, Astrid sent me a really kind message that helped fuel my writing. She wrote:
Been loving getting an email a day from you.
Previously, I wrote about Paul Millerd’s new book A Pathless Path where he quotes Agnes Callard, a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago.
According to Agnes Callard, people on aspirational journeys, or what I call the pathless path, are “characteristically needy people.” Because their worldviews are incomplete and evolving, they are dependent on the support of other people.
I love Agnes’ observation about people on the aspirational path, and I would like to extrapolate it to “all” people, not just “people on aspirational journeys.
I would like to modify Agnes’ quote to the following:
All people are dependent on the support of other other people.
With that, I’ll lead into the topic of this post: “life is all about people.”
P.S. Real magic happens when you get to meet-up in person with Internet friends. Astrid will be in Berkeley this week, and I’m stoked to get to meet up with her for lunch 😁
I want to start by telling you about my friend Hugh. (Hugh, if you’re reading this, hi!)
Hugh and I first met through my husband, Harry, who went to college with Hugh. During the seven years that Harry and I have been together, I have had the great pleasure of also getting to know Hugh.
Hugh and his wife recently moved from the States to The Republic of Congo. What a big transition, to say the least, but they’ve been adjusting quite well.
I’m not surprised.
When Hugh lived in the States, he was excellent at community building. He and his housemates would have regular gatherings and events at their home, and a lot of wonderful people attended - all kinds of people, with all types of personalities. Hugh creates good vibes.
In the Congo, Hugh continues to make friends, throw parties, and attend gatherings.
The other day, Hugh and I were chatting on the phone. I told him that I admire how wherever he is, literally anywhere in the world, he is able to build community.
Hugh responded with:
Thank you, and yeah, of course, life is all about people.
This keen observation is impeccably simple and I think we all recognize that it can make life more joyous and meaningful, but the challenge is actually adopting this mindset.
Because living life from an abundant mindset of “life is all about people,” rather than a self-limiting mindset of “life is about me” is more difficult than we may think at first pass.
Perhaps even counterintuitive.
We are usually taught to compete with one another - in sports, in school, in our jobs. We operate from a scarcity mindset, like hamsters fighting over nuts.
So we are trained to become manipulative and coercive to get what we want. We usually don’t even recognize this - it’s just our modus operandi, our way of relating to the world.
What can we do about this? How can we combat our self-limiting scarcity mindset that keeps us focused on “me” rather than on “people”?
For starters, I want to share a wonderful quote from my friend Mike, the founder of Outdoor Yoga Berkeley. He always comes to class with the best quotes, and this one really resonates (especially because I was an accountant in my past life! 😂)
Mike shared the following quote:
What is a lover?
A lover is someone who gives and forgets they have given.
Otherwise, they are an accountant.
Isn’t that an amazing quote?!
Now, I want you to get curious and ask that you think about a few questions.
How many times have you had the following thoughts:
I’ll empty the dishwasher today, and I expect my partner will empty it tomorrow; or
I’ll cook dinner tonight and I expect that my partner will cook dinner next week;
I’ll give my partner a massage today, and I expect that my partner will give me a massage next time;
I’ll buy my friend a gift, and I expect that they will buy me one later;
I’ll call my friend today, and I expect that they will call me next time;
I’ll take notes during the meeting today, and I expect that a coworker will take them next time
I’m sure you get the gist. We’ve all had these if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, tit-for-tat kind of thoughts.
Now, here’s another question: how many times has the other person not reciprocated and you end up feeling resentment towards them?
My guess is, a lot.
It’s normal. We’re all busy people doing the best that we can with the resources we have available. But if we’re going to cultivate a mindset that is more people focused, and less “me” focused, we need to be quick to forgiveness. Better yet, we need to have no expectations at all!
I’m advocating for the mindset of giving and expecting absolutely nothing in return. Zero expectations. Zero hurt feelings. Zero resentment.
How do we act and expect nothing in return?
Well, first, and most importantly, we need to be in a resourceful state. We need to learn to operate from a place of gentleness, calmness, and quiet confidence; and unlearn to operate from anxiety, stress, and franticness.
You can see from the above illustration that adopting a mindset of “life is about people,” requires us to operate from our prefrontal cortex - the area responsible for planning, appropriate action, and empathy; not from our reptilian brain - the area responsible for basic functioning including our fear and panic response.
As always, take care and be well. And don’t forget to put on your oxygen mask first, before helping someone else. 💜