On Not Giving a Fuck: Patience, Grasshopper

I posted this article on my Facebook page a few days ago, and I think it’s fabulous. Some of you will find the superfluous use of the word “fuck” off-putting. If that’s the case, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog either. The article discusses living your life in a way that involves giving as few fucks as possible, which I sort of touched upon in my last blog entry as well. It got me thinking about how my own personal mantra of Be Patient, Be Polite, Be Positive, Be Powerful, Be Present—which is something I’ve been working on with varying degrees of success over the past five or six years—is something that has inadvertently been pointing me toward this very same goal which, flippant as it may sound, is an extremely difficult and admirable goal that would serve most Americans well. Hear me out:

There are a million little ways to live your life in a way that shows you don’t give a fuck, and if you’re mistaking that phrase to mean you should be living your life in a careless manner, weaving your way through life, detached, doing your best not to care about anything or anyone, then you’re not paying attention. It’s not about NOT giving a shit about life; it’s about giving a shit about the things that are truly important and letting the inconsequential shit go. As Mr. Manson explains:

“The point is, most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given. We give a fuck about the rude gas station attendant who gave us too many nickels. We give a fuck when a show we liked was canceled on TV. We give a fuck when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend. We give a fuck when it’s raining and we were supposed to go jogging in the morning.

“Fucks given everywhere. Strewn about like seeds in mother-fucking spring time. And for what purpose? For what reason? Convenience? Easy comforts? A pat on the fucking back maybe?

“This is the problem, my friend.

“Because when we give too many fucks, when we choose to give a fuck about everything, then we feel as though we are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and happy at all times, that’s when life fucks us.”

I mean if that doesn’t dead-on describe my life since chronic pain and depression. I let my anger and pity transform me from someone who didn’t give a fuck to someone who gave a fuck about everything. And when I say everything, y’all, I mean fucking everything. “Jesus, if that asshole had only parked his car six inches further forward, another car could have parked in this space. What a thoughtless asshole…  If those people would scoot down two seats, we could actually sit down too. What dickheads…  Way to leave your grocery cart in the middle of the fucking aisle, you dumb cunt!” In my world, there was no margin for error, no room for anyone else to be human. Thank god I was so perfect though.

And the things I was giving a fuck about, as it turns out, only served to fuel my anger further because my fucks always seemed to be aimed at other people. And guess what: you can’t control other people! That grandpa driving like a slow fuck in front of me? I could burst a fucking blood vessel screaming at him through my windshield, but his ass was still gonna be driving 25 in a 40. The entitled, SUV-driving soccer moms who insist on parking in my driveway every Saturday morning when they drop their kids off at practice? I could leave scathing, nasty notes on their Lexuses and BMWs til the cows come home. There would always be other soccer moms to take their place the following weekend.

I’m not saying not giving too many fucks about the wrong things is easy and that it doesn’t take practice. And that’s when I started applying the shit I was practicing every morning in meditation—my mantra—in real life. Which, in theory is what meditation is supposed to help you do, right? Help you get through real-life situations in a calmer, more empathetic manner?

For those of you who haven’t read the blog from the beginning, let me ‘splain. When I noticed myself having become a Perpetually Pissed-off Person 24/7, it took me a long time to figure out I wanted to do something about it, but once I did, I started to pay attention and notice where my own problems lie. And slowly I started to develop a personal mantra for myself, which morphed into what it is today: Be Patient, Be Polite, Be Positive, Be Powerful, Be Present. 

For the next five blog entries, I’d like to talk about what each of these concepts means to me and why I chose these. Because I think that in the United States, the things that fueled my daily anger aren’t that unusual. In fact, I think they’re pretty typical. First I’d like to talk about a big one: Patience.

I noticed I had a real problem with being impatient with other people. I was perpetually irritated by how goddamned slowly the rest of the fucking world was moving. Anyone else right there with me? Whether it’s on the road or in Target or in a restaurant, why wasn’t the rest of the world moving with the urgency that I felt? It’s not even like I was Speedy Gonzales; I was living with chronic pain, for chrissakes. Yet every driver on the road, every shopper with a cart, every walker with a dog seemed personally placed there for my inconvenience, plunked there by the universe to ruin my day and add ten extra seconds to whatever it was I was trying accomplish in that moment—get home faster so I could, what? Sit on my front porch, smoke a cigarette, and scroll through my Facebook feed? And I’d arrive home to my wife and recount with fury the list of people who’d fucked me while I was out that day, the list of idiots I’d encountered, a litany of dumbasses living within a five-mile radius of us, and we’d roll our eyes at how stupid humanity is and thank sweet Christ we weren’t that fuckwitted.

And therein lies perhaps the most insidious side effect of carelessly tossing out your fucks like so many Mardi Gras beads—not only does it raise your blood pressure and fill you with useless fury (so what if you get to your destination 30 seconds later than you would have?); not only does it give you a ridiculous sense of entitlement as you move through your life; not only does it continually smack you down as you futilely pinball around trying to control others; but it subconsciously reinforces the concept that you are somehow better/smarter/faster than the rest of humanity…that you are other.

So you are essentially, every minute of every day, reminding yourself that you are somehow set apart from the rest of humanity and that, my fellow strugglers, ain’t no way to live. When you set yourself apart from everyone else, aside from being incredibly lonely, it also makes us unable to empathize with anyone else. Y’all’re gonna hear me talk about empathy a metric fuckton in this blog BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING IMPORTANT. Once you lose empathy, you might as well be a goddamned mushroom, you fuckwit. You know who lacks empathy? People in Congress and CEOs and Sarah Palin. Shitheads. Once you lose the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and really feel what it must be like to live their life, you’re doomed. One you say “Well, I’ve never had that problem so that problem must not exist,” then you’re officially a Grade-A dick (or a Republican).

I digress. Back to Being Patient. It’s part of my mantra. I use it in my meditation every morning. I think about the day I have ahead of me, what my day entails, where my patience will be tested, and how I can better cope with the things that will challenge me so that when they actually do happen, I don’t fly off the handle as would be my natural tendency to do. Example: “Today I have to work with Kent. I know Kent is gonna be his usual micromanaging asshole self, so when he starts sending me an email every five minutes asking me when I’m going to be finished with his report, instead of sending him a bitchy email back, here’s how I will handle it instead.” Or “Today I have to go to Berkeley Bowl and deal with all the crazy gray-haired, flowy-pantsed, hippie ladies. Perhaps I should smoke a bowl and put my headphones on and listen to some electronica as I shop for my groceries today.” 

I also practice little exercises throughout the day when I feel my shit being tested. I have a breathe-smile-relax exercise I do when I find myself behind some shithead small child falling out in a line or when I’m driving behind someone hitting their brakes like they’re having a goddamned seizure. I close my eyes, take a deep breathe, smile, exhale, and let my whole body go limp. Fuck it if it doesn’t help. I read a book called Buddha Standard Time that has a number of these little small exercises you can do throughout the day that can help you decompress. Five- or ten-minute breathing or stretching exercises that you can step away from your desk and do, or even do while sitting on the bus, that pull you out of whatever nonsense is happening IRL and center you.

I’m not saying it’s easy or that it will happen overnight. It’s taken me years to get to a point where patience is now my norm. It’s a slow fucking process, people. But the alternative is walking around with a Julia Roberts-like vein popping out of your forehead all the damn time and stroking out by the age of 50. It’s just useless to give so many goddamned fucks over other people’s behavior. Look at the time we’re living in now. It’s not like we’re moving in the right direction—we’re becoming less civilized by the second.

Everywhere you turn people are upping their dickish behavior until it’s only a matter of time until someone pulls down their pants and takes a crap on your hood the next time you steal their parking space. You can’t change that. What you can change is how you cope with these assholes. Because if you don’t, they suck you in and you become one of them. And then it’s your ass hovering above someone’s hood trying to pinch one off.

And we all know you’re better than that.