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Auld Lang Syne —

December 30, 2011
by

Farewell 2011!

You’ve been a right bloody bastard and I can’t say I’m sad to see you go. This has been a difficult year for the world in general, and for many individuals, including myself, in particular.

Those who follow me on Facebook* got a glimpse of some personal fuck-ups of my own doing, which nearly led to my withdrawal from Fat Acceptance and FFFs altogether. Ultimately, I decided to stick it out, thanks entirely to those friends and readers who expressed their support for me no matter how flawed I am.

For me, it was a bittersweet victory. I kind of enjoyed the seemingly flawless identity that the impersonal internet provides, but at the same time, having the worst of my personality hung out like so much bad laundry and still feel love and acceptance from the community has made me stronger and less fearful.

It also made me realize that if you put yourself out there, if you take a stand, there will be those who will exploit your weakness for self-serving purposes. Nevermind the fact that we are all fucked up creatures who can undermine our own happiness and peace-of-mind through poor decisions and selfish desires.

Our society has embraced this take-no-prisoners attitude toward the flaws of others without reflecting on the fact that were the spotlight shone on our own flaws, we would wilt like winter roses.

Today we even had a commenter lecture me on how irresponsible it was to suggest that the death of Heavy D was due to something other than his (assumed) poor diet. This kind of schadenfreude upon the death of a fat celebrity is just a symptom of a larger problem our society.

Rather than focus on improving ourselves, society has decided that our time is better spent pointing out how others can improve themselves. And, I’m sorry, but unless and until you can hand me a certification of your perfection, I will assume that you have plenty of work to do on making yourself a better person.

Because here’s the thing: people who are gratified and satisfied by the life they are living, the choices they have chosen, the love they are giving, do not give a single ounce of mouse crap about the flaws of others. In fact, the people who are the happiest are the ones who acknowledge their own flaws, admit to their inability to eliminate them, and embrace a life lived in the earnest pursuit of self-improvement.

Now, I’m not referring to the kind of self-destructive nit-picking that Dr. Deah called out in her awesome New Year’s Eve post. I’m talking about the kind of self-awareness that helps people see where their genuine short-comings lie, and how attempting to be a little more generous, a little more honest, a little more compassionate can improve their lives significantly.

The people in your life who perpetually advise you as to how they would live if they were you have completely and utterly given up on improving themselves. True self-awareness comes with the realization that you are never done improving yourself. And if you are never done improving yourself, then you don’t have time to point out where others are failing.

That is not to say that we don’t help each other. Consider the difference between whatever obnoxious asshat family member has recently told you to lose weight through X, Y and Z. How did they approach you? Was it out of respect and concern for your health and well being? Or were they simply critical of the size and shape of your body and expressing that criticism through the red herring of health?

Compare the comments you have received about your body with the compassionate approach that Joanna advocated in her post on approach someone about their weight. Her approach removes judgment and criticism completely, and focuses on attempting to find out what’s going on, rather than telling the other person what is going on and how to fix it.

There’s nothing wrong with helping others to see areas in their life that are in need of improvement, but there is something wrong with pointing the finger and listing your gripes like God’s own auditor. And the first question to ask when you are about to intervene in the life of another is, “Is this my place?”

Is it my place to tell Cousin Earl that he drinks to much? I’m not close to Cousin Earl and I doubt he would respect the advice of someone he only sees at family holidays. And would I want Cousin Earl to comment on my smoking habit?

If you are a parent, then you may feel more entitled to criticize your child because the welfare of your child is your place. If you feel it is your place to speak up, then the next question, then, is “How will my intervention help?”

Is your goal to raise awareness? Inspire action? Provide support? Or merely point out the flaws in another person?

If you’re fat and you’ve tried diet after diet after diet, then what good is someone saying, “You need to lose weight”? No shit, Sherlock, that’s why I’ve been starving myself for weeks or months on end. What other advice do you have? Eat less? Exercise more? These suggestions will simply be interpreted as, “I think you are a complete and utter moron, and were it not for my kind and generous spirit you would be adrift in a sea of fatness and shame.”

Those who want to help you, those who care about you, will give careful consideration to what they say and how they say it. Those self-righteous douchebags who derive satisfaction through vicarious self-criticism, will scream “Damn the torpedoes” and say whatever the fuck they want.

Ignore those bastards. They aren’t worth your time or energy.

But even the criticisms of those who care about you can hurt. Even those with the best of intentions can scar you. In fact, it is often those criticisms that hurt the most.

When faced with the criticism of a loved one, try to appreciate the underlying compassion. As I said, all people are flawed and rarely does anyone set out to criticize someone they care about in a demeaning or demoralizing way.

I am the master of the back-handed compliment. The words and meanings I have in my head are frequently garbled on the way to my tongue. I frequently say things that sound much, MUCH worse than I had intended. I make mention of a subject that may be sensitive to the listener. And, as you might expect, I piss off a lot of people.

None of this is out of spite or animosity. I’m just a verbal clod with a poor sense of appropriate social skills.

So, when my words hurt another, I am not surprised by their reaction and I am swift to apologize, but sometimes the damage is done and nothing I can say will undo it.

But just as I have learned to acknowledge and embrace the flaws in myself, I believe it is absolutely vital that we acknowledge and embrace the flaws of others.

If it is someone who really cares about you, then it is likely that you care about them also, and know the truth behind their intentions. Be compassionate and understanding. Give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them to explain what they mean.

In a situation where you are confronted with criticism of a loved one, accept that they feel this way and explain why you disagree. And be sure to tell them whether you would or would not like them to offer you advice in other areas of your life. Communication remains the only barrier between a good and bad relationship.

As we stand at the cusp of a new year, I encourage all of you to improve yourself in one important way: become more compassionate. Compassion toward yourself and compassion toward others will go a long way toward making your life a little easier and a little less stressful. When you are able to forgive yourself and to forgive others, then you have the ability to eliminate all of the little disappointments and misunderstandings that stand between you and happiness.

For a while now, I’ve felt as though there’s some sort of numerological phenomenon that affects how the year will go. Odd-numbered years always seem a little more challenging, a little more heart-breaking than even-numbered years.

I hope that this is the case because I’m sure looking forward to an awesome 2012. And I hope that in the coming year you are able to find all of the love, joy and satisfaction that you are seeking.

Thank you all for making Fierce, Freethinking Fatties the community that it is and I look forward to all that we will be creating in the next year together.

*Subtle self-promotion, no?

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2011 2:39 pm

    Awesome post for the end of the year! I have had a tendency to notice flaws in others, but it’s usually people I know and who I have been affected negatively by their flaw. For example, this year I have been in 2 different nightmare roommate situations. Both of them have to do with people who want to share a roof with me but don’t want to pull their own weight financially or house chore wise. I always find myself paying for the laziness and irresponsibility of others, and it gets me thinking about people my age and how much I am embarrassed by them. If I think about it too long, I start to feel my ego inflating so I will try to just shut it off. Even though I am not perfect, I find myself thinking narcissistic thoughts anyway, which may be my own flaw in itself. I judge people, as everyone does, but not based on things like size or their choices of diet. Those things are personal and none of my concern.

    Anywho, I am looking forward to reading the fierceness that is FFF through 2012.

    • December 30, 2011 2:55 pm

      Ashley,
      Absolutely confront them. That’s totally not an issue of you being a douchebag. If people aren’t pulling their weight, you need to talk about it. And, odds are, they’ll bring up some issues they have with you as well. It happens, especially when you’re living together.

      I’m more talking about concern trolls who butt in when they have no business butting in. There are definitely genuine reasons to criticize others, but inflating your own self-importance isn’t one of them. And it’s hard not to let your ego get out of control when so many people seem so fucked up. But we have a harder time seeing the fuck-upedness that others find in us.

      Just be understanding and compassionate, and you’ll be alright.

      Peace,
      Shannon

    • December 30, 2011 7:21 pm

      My son had an absolute monster of a roommate earlier this year–he even ended up moving out of his apartment for two weeks to give her time to get herself out of there so he didn’t have to deal with her while she was doing so. One of the most unreasonable human beings on the planet. We tried to help her out but her idea of being helped was being allowed to walk all over my son and not pulling her weight in any way. Hope you get it worked out. Such things are nerve wracking and stressful.

  2. December 30, 2011 7:24 pm

    I’ll be glad to have 2011 gone–so long and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. For me it was a pretty atrocious year. I relapsed and cut myself for the first time in more than 5 years and thought about ending the year with a bang, but then I said fuck it, I will keep fighting a while longer. Hope next year is better for everybody.

    • January 3, 2012 9:33 am

      Dammit, Faycin, don’t you dare think about checking out. Whatever circumstances made 2011 so difficult are not worth ending your life. Please find some help, if you are able. Maybe you don’t feel like it, but your presence is needed and felt in this world, and its absence would make our lives just a little darker. I wish I could do something to help you, so if there’s anything you can think of, feel free to contact me at atchka at hotmail. This year will be better. Just hang in there.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • January 10, 2012 10:54 am

        Thanks Shannon, I appreciate it. I’m actually much stronger when I’m angry rather than depressed. Of course as they say depression is just anger without motivation. For me that’s pretty well true.
        I wish I could afford to get help but it’s simply too expensive and county is worthless for someone who isn’t an extreme case. If I were bipolar with psychosis (I’m bipolar without psychosis) or schizophrenic they could deal with me–they’d simply medicate me. But I’m too aware and most medicines just mess with me so I don’t want to take them. I take a low dose of Lithium to keep the irritability and paranoia tuned down to a low roar. That’s the only medication I seem to be able to handle. County doesn’t know what to do with people like me who have a grip on reality they just need someone to help them navigate the wild seas that is their emotions.

  3. January 1, 2012 11:10 am

    i had a good bad year…..i had onset of epilepsy and seizures….but i also got engaged and married. Here’s to 2012 being better for all

    • January 3, 2012 9:45 am

      Yeah, just reading about your epilepsy experience is terrifying. But 2012 will be the year you manage it, plus it’s your first year as an official married person. Good things are bound to happen!

      Peace,
      Shannon

  4. January 1, 2012 6:56 pm

    This is the first year in what feels like a decade that’s been good. I passed my bar exam. I got a job for the first time in two years. I got a real diagnosis, and I’m honestly pretty happy to carry the label of Aspie … better than “freak”. I feel like I’m finally beginning to know myself.

    • January 3, 2012 9:46 am

      Congrats on passing the bar, CC! That’s awesome. And you only got diagnosed this year? I figured it was longer than that. It’s amazing how having a diagnosis can allow you to manage your life better. I hope you’re right and this decade continues to be generous to you.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • vesta44 permalink
        January 3, 2012 12:19 pm

        I know a lot of people don’t like Wal-Mart because of their personnel policies, but really, I have to give them props for hiring older people, handicapped people, and fat people without being forced to do so. Our Wal-Mart has a couple of employees there who are in wheelchairs (one even brings his service dog to work with him), another employee is deaf, one is mute, several are fat (and a couple of them are fatter than me), and lots of them are older (in their 50s, 60s, and even older). And ever since Mike’s been there, every time someone from management sees him, they greet him by name and ask him how he’s doing.
        Yeah, their wages and benefits suck, for the most part, but even part-time employees are eligible for benefits, and some benefits and poor wages are better than none when no one else will hire you. Mike was having trouble finding another job because of his age (he was 55 when they fired him) – he has lots of experience with forklifts, material handling, welding, etc (he’s done all of that ever since he was 18, for 20 years in the Navy and then when he retired from the Navy all his jobs were doing those things) but employers see his white hair and find out his age and it’s “We’ll call you” and they find someone younger to fill the job. So he applied at Wal-Mart, went through 3 interviews and got hired right away, in spite of his white hair and age.

  5. January 1, 2012 7:40 pm

    I got a car and a $17 an hour job in 2011. My year was bitchin’ and 2012 should be even more bitchin’ still.:)

    • January 3, 2012 9:47 am

      Holy crap, that’s awesome. May the bitchinness continue!

      Peace,
      Shannon

  6. vesta44 permalink
    January 2, 2012 10:45 am

    My husband lost his job – the one where he was on his feet 12 hours a day and was stressed out all the time by the assholes he had to work with. In spite of them saying they fired him for cause, I filed his appeal with unemployment and won for him (pays to have a bitch who knows how to finesse the government as your wife). And then he got a way less stressful, part-time job at Wal-Mart, working in the deli (he likes it and still gets to draw his unemployment on the weeks he’s working less than 32 hours).
    The pay cut he took is well worth the fact that he’s not on his feet for 12 hours a day and that the job isn’t nearly as stressful as the old one. We’re doing okay financially, and he’s doing much better mentally and physically. 2012 is going to be much better than 2011 was.

    • January 3, 2012 9:48 am

      Ya know, you rarely hear stories where a job at Wal-Mart was somebody’s Godsend, so that’s awesome. And if I ever need someone to advocate for me in the workplace, I know who I’m calling. 😉

      I hope everything continues to improve in 2012 for you and your family, vesta!

      Peace,
      Shannon

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