Everyone Is Out To Get You

I was the idiot at a networking dinner the other night. You ever go to a dinner with lots of smart people and everyone is talking about “globalization” or “localization” or “mobilization” (and then throw in “monetization”, which is a curse word) and you have nothing to say although you’re supposed to say something? You have to sound smart!

It used to be people argued “isms”. My Ism is better than your Ism. Capitalism. Socialism. Solipsism (I don’t even know what that is). We’re post-Ism now. Nobody is an Ism. Now we count out the “izations” and take turns debating the horrors inflicted on the world by each “ization”. Globalization + Localization does something horrible to our bowel movements. Let’s talk about it at dinner.

All of this is to say: I’m afraid to be thought of as stupid. I’m going to be revealed as a fraud. I don’t like it. And I try to keep my mouth shut so people don’t realize but even then I might get caught. “Who is that guy with his mouth shut?” The fraud sitting in the corner. Don’t feed him dessert!

But do they? Think I’m stupid? Did everyone wake up and think, “whoever doesn’t speak at that dinner is a fucking idiot and I’m going to ruin his life.”

Here’s some things about human beings, a fragile species that will be extinct in another couple of hundred thousand years or so.

– They don’t wake up thinking “today is the day I bring down a rain of shit on so-and-so”. Nobody does. In my informal survey of registered voters taken across both Blue and Red states it seems to me people think two things when they wake up: “I have to go to the bathroom” AND “does XYZ hate me?” Where XYZ is a rotating cast of fellow submarine-mates ranging from Mother, sister, wife, friends, colleagues, co-workers, ex-coworkers, people who said “no” to you, people who lied to you, people who once liked you and now there’s a strange quantum distance between the two of you that you never thought would be there but to observe it just makes it worse.

Today I woke up wondering about people ranging from random Yahoo employees to formerly close family members to one ex-cosmonaut – “why does she hate me?” and on reflection it’s because:

– Everyone is insecure. Maybe I’m projecting. Maybe everyone else is secure. Strapped in. Ready for take-off. If the oxygen mask comes down, confidently put it on your face, then help those around you who are suffocating.

But I think that’s unlikely. I think most people think they are a fraud. And then they read, “its good to have the impostor syndrome” and for a second they are proud of being a fraud. But then they go back to thnking, “wait, I’m a fraud and it sucks.”

– Most people are afraid. They are afraid they won’t get a job. They are afraid they will lose a job. Afraid to go broke. Afraid the world is changing without them. Afraid of their own jealousy. Afraid to be without love. Afraid to die lonely. Afraid of being afraid. We can’t help it. It’s genetically encoded into us. That’s why a tiny tribe in Ethiopa 50,000 years ago killed all neanderthals and cro-magnon men, spread across the world, and now number 7 billion strong. Because we were afraid we wouldn’t get food if we didn’t do that.

On a daily basis I’m probably afraid of all of the above at some point.

– People have both good moods AND bad moods. We can’t help it. Everyone cycles. If someone is in a bad mood you might think, “man, that guy is a jerk” but the reality is, he’s just in a bad mood. The key to bad moods is this: if you are in one, recognize it and tell yourself, “ok, that’s it for me today. No decision-making or panicking while in a bad mood.” If you see someone in a bad mood, don’t judge him for it. You might be next. But you can stay away from him for awhile.

If you can’t do either of the above then you’ll just end up fighting or arguing with people. Why waste time doing that? You can’t force yourself into a good mood. Or force anyone else. You have to just wait it out. Like a bad case of mental diarrhea. Related to this:

– People’s minds can’t be changed. We just saw it in this election. Half the country was arguing with the other half of the country. Did anyone change their minds at all? Maybe one person out of 200 million changed his mind and suddenly went from pro-life to pro-choice. Or anti-war to pro-war. He suddenly said, “you know what? You’ve been yelling in my face all this time and I’ve been yelling back but now I suddenly see that you are right and I am wrong.”

That one person is probably out there but I have never met him. Everyone I meet likes to argue. But nobody I meet has ever changed their mind about what they were arguing about. And 100 years later, their great grandkids forget their name. (My daughter is doing a “genealogy project” and doesn’t know the name of a single great-grandparent. And neither will your great-grandkids). So why argue with people? Or defend yourself against people arguing? It’s pointless.

– People often have a lot on their mind. And you can’t take it personally if they treat you bad or don’t return a call or do something you think is annoying.

Think about all the moments when you were happiest. Did you have a lot on your mind then? Or did you have relatively little on your mind? When I have “a lot on my mind it usually means I’m stressed about something. Or panicking. Like I called someone and they didn’t call back quickly so my mind jumps to 1000 conclusions. You can’t make a good decision when you have a lot on your mind. The mind is too crowded then. It won’t let good decisions in.

But what if your boss really is a dick. Or your friend betrays you. Or you just lost money and now you’re scared. Or you woke up by yourself again. Things are sad. Things are dificult. Can we have one day of freedom outside of this dirty prison before we die?

And the answer is yes. Practice by counting how many times you can say, “I’m in a bad mood again”. Clouds are in the sky. But the more you count them, the more you are able to wait for them to clear instead of being surrounded in the fog, unable to see. And they WILL clear, even for a moment, no matter what you think is happening in your life.

And when they clear, you can make decisions again. You aren’t a slave to your mood. Or the moods of the people around you. Or the thoughts that are holding you down in the prison shower. You can decide to just walk out of the prison a free man. You catch the bus on the road. You stare out the slot-machine-like windows while the bus drives through the landscape.  Everything is a mystery for you to enjoy at this very moment. None of us knows what will happen next.

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