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Love Letters to Humans (no. 88) — on Power and Consequences

When you feel uncomfortable, you have power. When you feel afraid, you have power. When you feel hurt, you have power. When you feel powerless, you. still. have. power.

Your power isn’t a feeling… it’s a fact.

We all have a relationship with power. Every decision we make (or pretend we aren’t making) is an exercise in power.

Also, every decision has consequences.

That’s the rub, isn’t it? Using our power (i.e. making decisions) has consequences… and we like to pretend we can avoid them, as though feigning powerlessness will magically banish consequences. Spoiler: it won’t.

We tell ourselves we *can’t* speak the truth because we might be labeled as “difficult,” or someone’s feelings might get hurt, or we might cause conflict or tension, or we might lose income or privilege. Instead of navigating the consequences of truth-telling, we navigate the consequences of holding back unspoken truths—compromised integrity, misunderstanding, frustration, erosion of trust, and so on.

We tell ourselves we *can’t* pursue what we want because other people will think and say negative things about us, or we might hurt someone else, or we don’t want the hassle or hustle of maintaining it once we get it… or any number of consequences we would rather avoid responsibility for navigating. Instead, we navigate the consequences of our prolonged dissatisfaction.

Of course we have a strong preference for avoiding unwanted consequences. Of course we do. This preference doesn’t negate consequences… and it doesn’t negate our power.

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Where are you confusing avoiding consequences with powerlessness?

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Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 87) — We Center What We Love

Today’s little reminder: We center what we love. (This may or may not be pleasing news.)

Where we place our attention is an agreement we make. We agree to nurture people, relationships, ideas and whole systems with our habitual attention. We make these agreements actively and diliberately or passively and absent-mindedly.

Either way, we make decisions about who and what we will attend. That which we attend consistently—our work, our judgments, our families, our friendships, our fears, our flaws, the future, the past, the news, our nemesis, our money, our medicine, our grievances, our goals, our gratitude, our ideas, our identities, our resources, our resentments, “them” and whatever they’re up to, or whoever else’s business we regularly mind—becomes our focus, our center, a relationship that defines us.

What is a relationship that defines us if not an expression and manifestation of love? Is it not a sideways attempt at connection even when we’re railing against someone, even we are angry, even when we have named our precious attention “hate”?


To what and whom are you giving your attention?

Whom (or what) have you agreed to love by centering them?

Are you satisfied with the agreements you’ve made?

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Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 86) — “You First”

Yes, inept communication can hurt… and it isn’t necessarily abuse. May we have the capacity to extend grace to the clumsy and the earnest (including ourselves). May we neither seek violence nor manufacture it. May we regard our own power.

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This isn’t a suggestion to bypass harm or abuse when it is happening. Abuse and violence are real, and I am not looking for anyone to pretend otherwise.

I am saying that many of us have not learned to communicate with skill, grace, or generosity, and we fumble around hurting one another unintentionally until we learn better. We all come by it honestly—we learn what we live.

I am saying that withdrawal, punishment, and retaliation are poor teachers if we want others to learn skill, grace, and generosity in communication. We are responsible for our participation in the co-creation of our relationships.

We often expect other people to respond with maturity and grace to our worst behaviors—snark, defensiveness, impatience, sarcasm, clunky accusations, interrogation, condescension, sulking, and so on. When we are met with the same behaviors, we find out precisely how challenging our standards of maturity and grace can be.

If we truly desire more understanding, mutual respect, greater regard for difference, it is within our power to initiate and foster these things in our most important conversations and relationships. As my friend & teacher Andréa Ranae says, “you first.”

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From whom do you expect and demand more skill, maturity, grace, or emotional generosity than you are willing or able to extend?

Where are you committed to depending on someone else’s emotional maturity and skill to determine your peace?


Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 85) — Room for You

Today’s little reminder: In right relationship, there is room for you.

“Room for you” means room to, among other things, question, feel, learn, grieve, make decisions, experience, reflect, change and grow, thrive, fail, create, rest, think, and engage with the world we inhabit together.

I do not mean someone else must make room for us to dump every single thought and feeling we have onto them so that they can hold our intellectual and emotional barf-bags and we can feel better having unburdened ourselves (#GetAJournal). I do not mean narcissistic demands and ungoverned self-expression (like cruelty, lashing out, tantrums, or self-righteousness in the name of “speaking our truth” and “standing in our power”) become okay… every decision we make in relationship has consequences.

I mean that we are not required to give and be everything to everyone. We can’t… not without disregarding ourselves. We are allowed—required, even—to honor the limits of our very human capacities. Relationship that depletes us to the point of self-destruction is abusive and unsustainable.

Your ability to be that stellar friend, partner, parent, care-giver, leader, and whatever-you-are-that-makes-the-world-go-‘round that you want to be depends on you being resourced and present. There has to be room for you.


I’m thinking about everyone who’s giving so much right now. May you have rest, joy, and nourishment. May your needs be met. May you take up room.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 84) — on Feeling the Feelings

No one else can feel your big feelings for you—this is the work and surrender only you can do. Catapulting blame is a distraction. Demanding to know why is a distraction. Attempts at control are a distraction. Mind your business… feel your feelings.

To be clear, I am not saying that our feelings are the *only* things that require our attention. There is plenty of work to be done in these times, much of it practical and necessary. There are people to be cared for, preparations to be made, preventions to be enacted—it isn’t as though we have nothing else to do. We can do what must be done. And.

Demanding the punishment of those we believe are to blame will not solve what is happening right now. Trying to extract answers from people whose reasons will never satisfy us will not change what is happening right now. Trying to coerce and manipulate other people into doing what we want them to do will never build the world we want or the future we imagine.

These are strategies for re-creating what we know, a world that is familiar. These are strategies for upholding the paradigm of supremacy and dominance where someone else is wrong, less than human, morally inferior, spiritually indebted to us, and must be subject to our will for us to be okay… for life to be okay.

Of course we crave certainty and familiarity. Of course we do. We know these paradigms of contempt—they raised us. We came by it so honestly… and we can choose to create something different if we want it.

We don’t have to destroy anyone else right now. We can attend to what truly requires our attention.

And we can feel the feelings we’ve been avoiding.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 83) — on Making Enemies

Where did you learn that differences and conflict necessarily produce enemies? What if that isn’t even remotely true?

No one can choose for you what they will be to you. Other people cannot make themselves our friends, our beloveds, or our enemies—only we can do that.

What if we create our enemies out of differences and disagreement simply because we want an enemy to fight?

Okay, but… who wants enemies? That just sounds weird, but stay with me for a minute, if you will.

I do. (I did.) I have wanted enemies. Recently, even. Sometimes I make temporary enemies out of the people I love most, like Ben, my teachers, my family. Sometimes it’s whoever is in charge. Sometimes it’s everything… the way the world is right now.

I’m starting to see how easy it is to avoid my own responsibility when I have someone or something else to fight with, blame, or hold in contempt. I don’t have to look at the real problem, because *they* are the problem. If I can control, change, or destroy them, my problem is solved.

But that’s never quite how it works, is it?

I want something. I want something to be different. Rather than taking responsibility for my own decisions and the consequences of making the thing different, I blame you. I try to get you to make things different. Now I want *you* to be different so I can be okay. And if you refuse to be different, you are the reason I am not okay. You are responsible for how I feel, not me.

Creating enemies out of conflict or disagreement is codependency, a way to ensure that responsibility (and power) rest absolutely with someone outside ourselves. It is a fierce commitment to opposition over liberation, and a commitment to dismissing possibility and missing our shared humanity.

Remind me of this often. I’m still learning it and it is so uncomfortable.

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Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 82)

Right relationship is a practice. How do you choose to regard and speak to yourself and others when you’re uncertain, afraid, uncomfortable, or not getting what you want?

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about the relational fuckeries of Attack, Defend, Avoid, and Control. These are go-to strategies we tend to use when we feel powerless and want to win our relationships instead of cultivate them. They are strategies for trying to hide our vulnerability, avoiding our feelings and responsibility, and distancing ourselves from other people—but not in that important #FlattenTheCurve kind of way.

Over the past few days (okay, yesterday afternoon 😬) I’ve noticed myself falling into old, habitual patterns of reaching for accusation, manipulation, blame, nagging, I’m right/you’re wrong, interruption, and a general failure to listen to, be present with, appreciate, and cherish myself and people who are important to me. When I do these things I can feel both my integrity & my relationships eroding, and it has ultimately never gotten me what I was hoping for.

I don’t take inventory of my own relational fuckery to punish or diminish myself. I reflect to recognize that in my more graceless moments, I have needs that are not being met, and to remind myself that my needs are worthy of regard… and so are others’.

We cannot meet others with care, safety, patience, and nourishment that are not available to us (or that we are denying ourselves). For me, failing to practice right relationship this week is information that some part of me needs care, safety, patience, or nourishment—from within or without—and I have a choice about how I go after getting my needs met.

In my fear, uncertainty, urgency, and discomfort I can judge and do the familiar things I have learned to do—Attack, Defend, Avoid, Control—or I can make a different choice to Witness, Inquire, Presence, and Regard myself and the humans (and other beings) with whom I am in relationship.

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What are these uncertain times showing you about the familiar relational strategies you use to get your needs met? How can you practice right relationship to create more care, safety, and nourishment for yourself and others?

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Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 81)

What is the quality of your relationship with Spirit? What is the quality of your conversation with that which seeks to nourish you?

These are questions I’m asking myself more often as I make choices about how to navigate the uncertainty of these times.

These are not questions to bypass my human and physical relationships, but a way to inform them, to resource myself with a deeper regard for myself and for the people and other beings around me—to regard what is true for us together in this moment and to hold the uncertainty, the grief, the differences, and the fear with compassion.

We exist in relationship to each other, to everyone, to everything.

May we practice relationship in ways that honor our unavoidable interconnectedness, the heartbreaking oneness we inhabit. May we practice relationship in ways that nourish and sustain what is beautiful and vulnerable among us, between us, and within us. May we deepen our conversations. May we listen a little harder.

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Love Letters to Humans (no. 80) — on Self-Loathing

You are a precious and integral part of every relationship you have. No amount of self-loathing will restore a damaged relationship to harmony. You cannot despise yourself into right relationship.

We can take responsibility for our decisions, our actions, our mistakes, our ignorance and still regard our own innate humanity and worthiness. Believing ourselves to be anything less than worthy of care, dignity, and growth—even after we do harm—does not move us toward just and sustainable relationship… it reproduces systems of punishment and contempt.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that those whom we have harmed owe us anything—they are equally worthy of care, dignity, and growth, and that may mean a good deal of time and space away from us. No one owes us grace or forgiveness. We can still offer grace and forgiveness to ourselves and keep it moving.

Learning to be in right relationship with ourselves and one another requires self-awareness, responsibility, and our full humanity. Our growth and relational repair does not require self-judgment or shame.

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Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 79) — on Punishment

Has being punished ever truly made you a better person? Has punishing someone else ever truly made you whole?

In punitive cultures and hierarchies of worthiness and contempt, we learn to relate to in ways that give us an illusion of safety and worthiness, but rarely bring us closer to the authenticity, integrity, relational joy, intimacy, and belonging we really want in our most important relationships.

We come by it honestly. Children learn what we live, and we were all children once.

I’m talking to those of us who were parented and educated through punishments and rewards based on our obedience and performance, who grew up in fear-based and punishment-based religious practices, who live in societies where “justice” systems focus on punishing the guilty and give little effort and care to restoring the harmed.

For us, it can be hard to imagine creating change in ourselves and the world in mutually nourishing ways.

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.

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?

Punishment in our relationships might show up as: Reprimands • Emotional withdrawal • Dismissiveness • Withholding or restricting resources, support, or pleasure • Relentless criticism or disapproval • Name-calling • Shouting, yelling, or speaking harshly • Physical violence • Belittling or diminishment • Withholding emotional care • Threats of abandonment • Threats of violence • Retaliation for hurt feelings • Blame • Revenge • Isolation from support • Shunning • Shaming • Rejection unless certain conditions are met

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What would it look like to get your needs met, influence others, and create change in yourself and the world by relating in mutually caring, non-punitive ways?

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Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.