On Values

I find myself in a curious position. You see, I’ve been considering deleting The Used Life, or at least, making it private. I haven’t told anyone that until now, but I’m just not deriving as much enjoyment from the blog as I have in the past. I’m not as engaged. More importantly, I don’t feel like I’m making any real progress or aligning with a greater purpose—which is what this blog was always supposed to be about. 

I’ve been reflecting on it a great deal. Working to get to the roots of these feelings—of this profound lack of enthusiasm. Also brainstorming about what can and should be done to infuse more life into this project, or say definitively that it’s run its course. And to my surprise, I found there’s one feeling—one very distinct and rather nagging sentiment that resurfaces every time I contemplate the fate of my beloved little blog: I can’t stop feeling like I’m hiding. 

But, why should I feel that way? Surely, I am being myself. I make poetry and art as I choose. I write about topics in psychology and philosophy that interest me. Of course, there are subjects I have always chosen to stay away from: politics and religion. Anything controversial, really. And normally that kind of thing doesn’t matter…But here I am. I have arrived. I know it in my bones. I have struck the root of my problem. As I’m sure you know, there is sometimes a very fine line between staying away from a topic in order to avoid conflict or maintain an image and intentionally silencing oneself when one has something to say.

If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. – Rollo May

And ironically, it is this post—this very discussion on values—which seems to betray me. You see, I can’t write it honestly without being honest about some of my political views. It’s simply not possible for me to say what I have to say without actually saying it. It’s also not worth it to me to keep this blog if I’m not going to use it as a space where I can express myself honestly and freely, no matter how many followers I have (or don’t have).  

But that’s just the dilemma, isn’t it? The very dilemma that’s at the heart of living a values-centered life, whatever your values are. Whether I smile, put my head down, and look the other way or conduct myself in a manner that’s innately satisfying, or meaningful to me, even though it might be unpopular. We all know these feelings. And the higher the penalty is for standing up for ourselves—for what matters to each of us individually—the more likely we are to just smile, put our heads down, and look the other way. But here’s the rub: it’ll eat you up from the inside. Just getting along. The feeling that if I just do what I’m supposed to do, everything will be fine. 

Except it won’t be. Because at the end of the day, no matter what’s happening in the world, you still have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and be someone you respect. There’s no getting away from it. I remember one night early in the summer, drinking beers with a few neighbors and having a conversation like, I imagine, friends and neighbors all across America are having: What is happening to our country? What are we allowing to happen to our country? What is going to happen to us? It was just after our governor had issued a statewide mask mandate. One neighbor looked at me and said, “Everyone’s got to have a line in the sand.” I looked back at him and said, “I’ve reached mine.” 

I had, of course, been researching the science and arguments for and against universal masking for weeks, as we expected that mandate would come. And when it did come, I found myself curiously unmoved. Or rather, I found I had reached a point at which I would no longer be moved. And while I respect others’ rights to do as they choose, I could no longer smile, put my head down, and look the other way. Even in times of pandemic, I will not accept that the government can violate my personal liberties in that way. (I have no doubt some of you think I’m a terrible person for saying that. You’re entitled to your opinions.)

Whether you agree with me or not, I bring up this issue to make a point. If you are not living according to your values, then you are cheapening your own experience. It is a curious thing how our pursuits begin to lose meaning the moment we start doing them for the wrong reasons. Even those that are nearest and dearest to us. The moment we begin dulling ourselves, silencing ourselves, quietly betraying ourselves just for the sake of getting along, doing what we’re supposed to do, or not incurring criticism. Indeed, whether you agree with me on masking or not, if I had chosen to talk about any other topic here, then I would have missed the point.

14 thoughts on “On Values

  1. I don’t think you should delete your blog or shy away from topics like religion or politics. I think you’ll end up giving us (your readers) new things to think about, and also explore aspects of yourself that you didn’t know existed. Controversial and edgy topics keep readers hooked – regardless of whether they agree with the view espoused or not – if the essays are well written. And you write very well. Also, your views on masking don’t make you a terrible person. I mock conservatives a lot, but I also disdain uber-left wing policies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Justin. I think you’re right. It might be worth addressing some topics that are outside of my current repertoire. I’ve been taking the same approach to this blog for a long time, and it’s starting to lose it’s lure, it’s freshness, and it’s excitement for me. I don’t think my stance on masking makes me terrible, either, but it’s strange and disheartening to listen to a lot of the rhetoric around topics like this one. Anyway, I left the Democrat party years ago because of the far left. No plan on returning anytime soon. Thank you for the thoughtful and encouraging comments. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Please don’t delete your blog. I look forward to your art and poetry. And find inspiration in your blogs about psychology and philosophy. Though I have had similar thoughts about my own blog, just doesn’t feel vibrant right now. Maybe just late summer blues??

    We live in a big, diverse country I have been lucky to see a lot of it: 48 states, though I haven’t done much traveling since the 90’s when I was in a punk band. And because we are so big and diverse, we are going to see a lot of debate…which is good. This is what makes our democracy vibrant. But politics is tough right now, the far left and far right make it hard to have conversations. But most of us somewhere in the middle of that political spectrum still know how to listen and talk about our diverse views. Even celebrate them. I would be glad to read your views on politics. You always bring something insightful to your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. You know, it’s interesting. I feel much better after writing this post. I really think I had pigeon-holed myself into writing about only a small array of topics and thinking the blog had to be about “this” but not “this”. Too much of that kind of thinking made me feel I was stifling my own voice and made the blog stop evolving. I think I will try writing about different topics and maybe even resurrecting some old ones, like femininity, but with a fresh spin. You’re right about debate being difficult right now. I get the sense many Americans feel somewhat disoriented, myself included. Maybe it will be nice to try and step outside of all that and just speak honestly. Thanks again…I hope the late summer doldrums pass quickly for you. Oh…a punk band? How awesome. 😎🤟🏻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad you are feeling better. And I am looking forward to your future blog posts. I agree we all feel disoriented right now. I’m going to post something today, in hopes of breaking up the doldrums. Yes, the band was fun, and I got the chance to meet lots of people and to travel. Which was a good.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m glad you are planning to post soon. Whenever I go through a bout of writers block or blogging fatigue, I find that forcing myself to write and publish something–even if it isn’t my best work–is good medicine. Gets my mind and motivation moving in the right direction. I think it’s awesome you were in a band! I traveled quite a bit, too. Did a short stint as a flight attendant (kind of a bucket list thing), but I always thought it would be so cool to be “on the road” like, I imagine, you probably were. Meeting new people is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of travel. Lots of fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I guess, I look at it like this…if I were a guy and I wanted to make love to the love of my life, but knew if she got pregnant it could kill her…I’d strap on a condom.

    I love your blog, and conversations about differing opinions are so needed right now. Rock your bravery loud!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I could go on an impassioned speech about your right to create art with messages you believe in – no matter what others think, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll point out that your writing and art respect the viewer. You never demean someone by making a simple set of words or a haphazard collage. It’s that respect for the viewer’s intelligence that I find admirable (and I bet many others feel the same). I’d say the purpose of your blog is to spread ideas, not eliminate them. That’s what sets you apart from a lot of artists. Stay with us. You’ve never disappointed us before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you so much. My goal is always, as you say, to share ideas–to get people thinking–but I never want to disrespect my readers by telling them what to do or how to think. And you’re right. It’s a decision I think all creators, at some point, have to make for themselves. Do I communicate my convictions honestly and openly at the risk of offending other people or stifle my own voice? And I think, when faced with the choice of hitting the “delete” button on something I love or mustering up a little bit of courage and being true to myself, I realized the former isn’t an option. And I’ll be sticking around (hopefully) for awhile. Your comment really touched me. Thank you again. It means a lot that you’ve said these things. I hope you have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

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