Love Letters to Humans (no. 99) — on Rules

We are responsible for the consequences of breaking unjust rules. We are equally responsible for the consequences of following them.

Rules aren’t always laws, codified and spelled out for all to examine. Some of our most powerful and pervasive rules are implicit, unspoken, invisible. We learn them by living them, as a matter of survival and a matter of fact.

The injustice of some of our unspoken social, cultural, and familial agreements lies in their failure (deliberate or unintentional) to regard the humanity, wellbeing, and innate value of everyone in the relationship.

Often, when we comply with unspoken agreements we do not regard the most vulnerable, we do not regard the lived experience of the humans in front of us, we do not regard our selves.

We come by it honestly—injustice is woven into the fabric of our societies, cultures, and families. And we get to choose. We get to examine the rules we’ve inherited and decide which ones we will accept responsibility for following, and which ones we will accept responsibility for breaking.


Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 98) — on Destruction and Power

Our understanding & analyis of power informs our relational strategies everywhere—at home, in community, in our organizations, in our partnerships, parenting, and politics. When we disregard our own power, we destroy to get our needs met.

I do not oppose destruction. Actually, I love it. And it has its time and place. (That’s an exploration for another day.) What I question is the strategy of destruction as an opening move to meeting our needs in relationship.

When we don’t understand how much power we truly have—how resourceful we are, how creative, how connected to source and to each other, how much courage we have, how many possibilities exist in relating rather than destroying—it makes sense that every time we encounter a bridge that seems too high and frightening to cross, we would reach for a match instead of inching forward toward the dangerous unknown. We already know how to burn the bridges we haven’t yet learned to cross.

Destroying instead of relating in our most important relationships can sometimes look like: Snapping at someone for not being helpful instead of asking if they have capacity to support us in a moment of frustration • Accusing someone of intentional wrongdoing instead of asking what outcome they were hoping for • Limiting our own options (for work, play, worship, political action, romantic love, etc.) because we don’t want to associate with a person or group of people • Cutting off communication because we don’t want to hear someone else’s lived experience if it contradicts our assumptions about them • Shaming ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and be where we are in an experience • Punishing someone else (or ourselves) for mistakes rather than encouraging growth and learning from them • Withdrawing from relationships to avoid the discomfort of tension or confrontation • Diminishing someone’s personhood when we disagree with them or disapprove of their choices

I hold this: relating is as powerful as destruction, and generally more effective for meeting our needs. And our relational fuckeries brilliantly show us where we have an opportunity to develop greater skill and capacity for showing up to tension, discomfort, and conflict with power that supports the wholeness of each of us and all of us. I want this for us.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 97) — on Punishment

Punishment is the relational fuckery of conflating violence with education. Most often the lesson is “be less like you and more like me.” This can be a perplexing lesson coming from someone who takes no issue with their own cruelty.

Sometimes our punishments are so subtle they’re nearly invisible—a quiet but intention-laden withdrawal from conversation, a rejected invitation to engage, a sideways look of disapproval. These aren’t always cruel or punitive choices… and sometimes they are.

Other punishments are blatant, violent, and unmistakable. A dressing down, shunning, shaming, loss of work or community, verbal or physical abuse, neglect, incarceration, death.

We come by our relational fuckery honestly. We learned through experiencing and witnessing punishment that to influence others, get our needs met, and effect change in the world, the most effective strategies were coercion, manipulation, threats, and punishment.

The commonality across punishments is the intention to dehumanize the recipient and reinforce our illusion of superiority so that we can feel safer, more worthy, comfortable, or resourced.

Is punishment working the way you want it to? Is it working politically, in your organizations, in your communities, at home? Is it making you better? More whole? Is it restoring your relationships to harmony?

If you have been following the unspoken rule that to be good you must participate in your own punishment or the punishment of others, I invite you to consider a life of disobedience.


The June-August session of Disobedience School for Humans Raised to be Good Girls and Nice Guys has almost filled. I’ll lead another cohort in October. Let’s talk if you’d like to know more. I’d love that.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 96) — on Disobedience and Belonging

Would you risk the access your obedience buys to claim the belonging that is your birthright?

Our compliance with the status quo is rooted in our very real and valid desire for survival within systems built on the erasure, destruction, and subjugation of difference. Access to resources, a sense of safety (and even superiority), and the experience of being socially accepted are often predicated on us hiding the truest parts of ourselves and the differences we bring.

Obedience can sometimes look like: pretending to be “normal” (masking) • culturally assimilating • prioritizing the comfort of others to our own detriment • obligating ourselves to emotional labor, whether or not it is explicitly requested of us • performing gender in ways that do not align with who we really are • code switching • making small talk • dieting • softening our tone • overworking ourselves • perfectionism • participating in things that energetically drain us • performing concern for things we don’t actually care about • choosing the “right” school, career, or partner instead of the right one for us • skipping dessert • being nice all the time • punishing others • punishing ourselves • pretending to be strong when we’re hurting or lonely • over-giving, over-achieving, over performing • under-giving, under-achieving, under-performing • people-pleasing • silence in the face of injustice • not talking about grief, death, or loss • choosing the thing that will cause the least amount of tension and prompt zero questions from the people around us… and this is a short list.

The rules are endless and contradictory, and attempting to obey them conditionally buys us the privileges of acceptance, access to resources, power, status, and protection from punishment.

I have no judgment about us wanting to avoid punishment and get our basic needs met, nor am I suggesting that we have an obligation to risk our ability to survive in order to be more of ourselves.

I am asking if there’s more—if in our obedience to the status quo we’re giving up the unconditional belonging and joyful connection that are our birthright.

I am asking if showing up with more of what we’ve got to experience belonging as we truly are is possibly worth risking some of the privileges that keep us comfortable and disconnected.

.

Starting in June 5th I’ll be teaching and exploring these questions more deeply with a small group of folks in Disobedience School for Humans Raised to be Good Girls and Nice Guys.

If you’re interested in learning more and joining the conversation, I’d love to hear from you.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 95) — on Empathy and the Disobedience of Emotional Boundaries

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is not an obligation to make out with other people’s emotions. Just because you can doesn’t mean you must.

When we’ve learned that empathy is synonymous with disappearing our personhood in the wake of someone else’s big feelings, of course it can feel mean, bad, or wrong to have emotional boundaries.

When we’ve been conditioned to nurture, caretake, and people-please as a cornerstone of our identity, of course it can feel disobedient to make room to have our own feelings instead of taking on the feelings and energy of someone who is in emotional distress.

We come by it honestly—we live in contexts and cultures that expect or demand emotional labor based on the bodies we inhabit and the identities we hold. Some of us were raised in families where we learned brilliantly & early on to place the emotional needs of others before our own, where bypassing our own feelings and prioritizing other people’s made us “good” and “nice”—and good and nice meant surviving childhood.

And when we’re ready for something more, different (disobedient) decisions are available to us. It is gloriously possible to take care of your emotional and energetic boundaries without being an asshole. I can’t promise that you won’t break some rules doing it, or that rule-breaking is without risk & consequences.

Disobedience School for Humans Raised to be Good Girls and Nice Guys start on June 5th. Registration starts with a conversation. Let’s talk. 🧡

Love Letters to Humans (no. 94) — on Containing Boundaries, a thank you note

A practice in boundaries: To simply witness someone else’s experience without layering in our assumptions about what it must be (or should be) like for them. How beautiful to be with someone as they are, without the interference of our projections.

Protective boundaries are wonderful for keeping out what is not ours, and there’s more. Containing boundaries serve our relationships by allowing us to keep to ourselves what is not someone else’s.

Today I give thanks for the rare beings in my life who listen so beautifully, so presently, and with such clear boundaries around what is theirs that I have room to experience what is mine.

Thank you for showing me what it means to connect deeply without enmeshment, to listen deeply without getting in the way or taking on judgments that do not belong to me, to take responsibility for the energy and feelings I bring to my experience of another, to make more room.

.

.

Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 93) — More You Is Better

When we hide or diminish ourselves to avoid being alone, we’re already alone—we’re just doing it around people we haven’t really given a choice to be with us. More you is better.

It’s imprecise, this one. We’re probably not really alone, but it can feel like it when we’re busy making everyone’s choices for them instead of relating with them. #AskMeHowIKnow

It’s a power move, a swift act of protection, the decision to abandon ourselves before anyone else can make the decision to abandon us… a brilliant learned strategy for avoiding rejection and heartbreak that we come by honestly through no fault of our own.

We decide it in advance using stale evidence from the past: I’m too much. I’m not enough. I’m not good. I don’t belong. I’m different and that’s scary. What if they find out what I’m really like inside? What if *I* find out what I’m really like inside?

If hiding ourselves is brilliant for avoiding heartbreak, it’s because it’s so consistently effective for avoiding opportunities for joyful connection. Sometimes that’s where we are and what we need. AND… if what we want is more connection, relational joy, and intimacy, we can choose something different and decide to share more of who we really are and what we really have inside.

The realest, truest, most authentic you is necessary to this world and worthy of being witnessed. More you is better.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 92) — Responsibility is Not Control

We are responsible for what we contribute to our relationships. ~ & ~ We cannot control someone else’s experience of their relationship with us.

There is no such thing as the single, objective entity we have come to call “the relationship.” Friendship, partnership, marriage, enemies, community, that ill-defined situation between you and Corona bae… anything we call “a relationship” really contains multiple relationships.

Every relationship you are in is YOURS. You are in it, and it is in you. It is yours to experience, yours to navigate, yours to make decisions about, and ultimately your business.

Every relationship someone else is in is THEIRS. They are in it, and it is in them. It is theirs to experience, theirs to navigate, theirs to make decisions about, and ultimately their business.

Does that mean we don’t impact each other? Of course not. We are social mammals, wired for connection, collaboration, and love. Other people affect us. We affect other people. Every decision we make has consequences, and we share consequences within the relational ecosystems we inhabit together.

AND… trying to manage or control someone else’s perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences—specifically their perceptions , thoughts, feelings, and experiences of us within THEIR relationship with us—takes us squarely out of our lane and into the full-time, Sisyphean task of minding other people’s business.

The only perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences of you that are within your control and scope of responsibility are yours… and they matter. You will be the source of your self-esteem when you make the decision to be.

.

.

Mind your business and do what you came to do.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 91) — on Boundaries

Paradoxically, tending to your boundaries is a profoundly effective practice for cultivating and sustaining loving & joyful connection.

Tending to our boundaries doesn’t mean building impenetrable emotional walls, pretending we don’t need care, love, support, and affection, or shutting people out when they make mistakes. Isolating ourselves and punishing others doesn’t serve us or our relationships.

It might seem obvious, but it bears stating explicitly: Your boundaries are for YOU.

Boundaries aren’t just personal—they are also inherently relational. They exist to protect you in the context of relationship, to make room for you to experience safety and joy in your relationships, and hold the possibility for you to show up in a way that honors your integrity… in your relationships.

Your boundaries exist to serve your highest good and the highest good of your relationships as you understand them. And because they serve your highest good as you understand it, your boundaries are your responsibility.

.

.

Where are you holding resentment in your most important relationships?

How closely do your resentments correspond with the places you abdicate responsibility for your own boundaries?

.

.

Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 90) — on the Paradox of Minding Your Business

Paradoxically, minding your business is a profoundly effective practice for cultivating relational joy.

.

“Mind your business” is the most useful, important, and enduring piece of advice I’ve ever received from Lena West. I love shorthand reminders like this. This one serves me in my actual business, and—when I practice—it improves every other relationship in my life.

.

Minding your business doesn’t mean ignoring other people’s feeling, needs, and desires—it means releasing the contemptuous idea that you are single-handedly responsible for creating their experience of you. That’s a LOT of power that you don’t actually have.

Other people are participants—not passengers—in their relationships with you. Like you, they have their own business to mind. They are responsible for their words and actions, their feelings and judgments, their beliefs and desires, their commitments and decisions… and their ideas about you. You don’t get to control that stuff—not if you want joyful connection.

It seems obvious but it bears stating explicitly: Control is generally a garbage strategy for building trust, intimacy, and relational joy.

Minding your business is taking responsibility for your words and actions, your feelings and judgments, you beliefs and desires, your commitments and decisions… and YOUR ideas about you. It frees you to make decisions from a place of sovereignty, love, and regard for yourself and the other, rather than trying to manage someone else’s business.

Your joy is very much your business, and your business is worth minding.