Rewriting Our Roles in this World

Art by Barbara Kruger

Awhile back, I was told about this method of general self-motivation I’ll call The Three. Since I’m a real introvert, and I have depressive and anxious tendencies (and probably fit the borderline personality criteria perfectly), I can struggle sometimes to accomplish well nigh anything. For folks like me, there are absolutely days when getting out of bed and taking a shower count as two full-power wins.

The Three works this way: Each day, regardless of whatever is or isn’t going on, you do three things.

  • Number One: Go Somewhere. This can be an adventure, or an errand, or a walk down the block. Up to you.
  • Number Two: Talk to Someone. Again, the context is all up to you, whether it’s a phone call to your beloved Ma, a chat with your super, or a philosophical meandering with your dealer. Up to you.
  • Number Three: Do Something. The vaguest of them all, and in some ways, the most useful. This lends a sense of accomplishment to even small tasks, for days when you need that, or gives you the clarity to zero in on The Thing that you’ve been avoiding, that you really need to get done, or that you secretly really, really want to do for yourself.

It’s basic as hell, I know, but that li’l framework got my engine running pretty regularly during a time in my life that I was struggling. It still helps me, just thinking about it helps, because I need reminders to leave the house, and to reach out to other human beings. I think the model could also be even more successful if you tailored it to your own needs/style as well; for example, I would put “Make Something” on that list over “Do Something,” probably, because I’m actually not in a healthy space if I’m not regularly creating in some way(s).

I did a quick search for my “Three Things” online, since I can’t for the life of me recall who told me about this, and I don’t know how widespread it is. Although it didn’t come up, I found this really cool list for those of us who may be atypical, or who simply struggle to stay grounded on the regular.

I just improvised an adaptation for my partner, actually, a moment ago, and I’m kinda feeling myself for it. Yesterday, I randomly wrote down a list of people he loves as a kind of pretend to-do list, suggesting “call so-and-so” or “do something nice for your sister,” more or less. I know it can be challenging for folks who were raised totally cis/hetero masculine in many cultures to express affection and emotion, and to reach out to one another. Loneliness can be devastating, and perilous, especially for men, and I truly hope we can begin to evolve beyond these limitations. The “we” in question includes women and other people in a man’s life who propagate expectations that men must act a certain way to be real. I have caught myself perpetuating harmful stereotypes, to my own surprise: Not all that long ago, I told a guy I love tremendously that he should “man up”–I’m pretty sure I used that exact fucking phrase–because he was feeling sad about something I deemed trivial. Without even thinking about it, I waved off his very real emotional response, his autonomy, and his right to be loved and supported, and vulnerable. Some real bullshit on my part, right? Luckily I caught myself pretty quickly, but that shows how insidious, and ubiquitous, that kind of social programming can be.

It’s apparent I’ve got work to do on myself, but that didn’t stop ya girl from getting an idea for Tom. I think a lot about how I can help other people find their light, and be what they dream of being; sometimes that entails taking risks, facing fears and taboos, and going against the status quo. So for Tom, if he wanted to face some of the nasty shit that’s been embedded in him over the years (as far as toxic masculinity goes), he might try out this Two-Part Plan:

  • One: Each day, do something kind/thoughtful for–or simply reach out to–a person you love.
  • Two: Each day, do one nurturing thing for the space you live in–your nest/house/apartment, what have you.

Women are generally trained to network, commune, knit together social fabric, talk to one another, listen, connect. We’re also often trained to look after the house, keeping it clean, using the kitchen to feed and warm the hearth, organizing, decorating, &c. What would the world look like if we all began to go against our own programming, questioning who we actually are and want to be, instead of quietly accepting the roles that some other people far away, long ago, decided we must do?

Simple, yeah. Elemental.

Tell it like it is.

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