Don’t Poke Holes

Don’t Poke Holes

New years resolution

Maybe it’s just human nature. We see a perfectly iced cake and we just HAVE to swipe a little with our finger. There’s something so satisfying about knocking down a row of dominoes or a card castle.

Or maybe its just that I’m a b*tch. I’ve kind of always just been one. There’s a lot of great things about it – as Tina Fey & Amy Poehler say “B*tches get stuff done.” And you know what? I DO get stuff done. I don’t get pushed around. Rarely does someone try to boss or intimidate me. I don’t hate the label.

But because I am one, I often feel this terrible, pointless, natural inclination to poke holes in everything. Sometimes it’s that I’m a Type A perfectionist so I need to mentally define something correctly – “Well, actually…” – or it will drive me crazy. Sometimes it’s that I’ve always been quite smart, so it’s not been out of the question for me to assume that I know more than the people I’m around. Sometimes its to keep my Upholder self from accepting something as perfect or flawless, because Upholders tend to set high and often unattainable expectations for themselves. Therefore if I’m able to say “It ~looks like they’ve got it all going for them but in reality there’s A, B, and C wrong in their lives…” then I can resist the urge to hold myself up to their standard. (And there’s ~something to be said for that, right? It’s not the WORST thing to remind myself that everyone looks cooler on Instagram and no one is revealing the tough stuff?? Right? Please!!!)

But it’s still the worst. Poking holes even SOUNDS awful. Sticking your dirty fingers into something that isn’t yours, wasn’t meant to be poked, was flawless but now you’ve ruined it… just… bad. Poking a hole in something often ruins it completely: balloons, fresh new 44 oz styrofoam cups full of Diet Coke, percussion instruments, the human body. You know, it even bothers me that you technically have to poke holes in Tres Leches Cake to allow the leche to soak through. Sometimes things still work and are still ok with holes in them, but they’re damaged and never quite the same again.

It reminds me of a study we learned about in one of my psych courses in college. They parked a car in a sketchy neighborhood, expecting some vandalizing. When they came back nothing had happened. Eventually they decided to break a window and leave the car again. When they came back the next time it had all the windows broken, tires removed, and graffiti everywhere.

That’s the problem. When you poke a hole, it makes it easier to poke more holes – whether it’s you continuing with the jabbing or others taking it as an invitation or indication of the worthiness of the object. Oh this already has a hole? It won’t mind a few more then.

Except that “it” is usually a human person, and yes, it will.

This kind of started last year, when for the very first time, I received a bunch of super mean, targeted, anonymous insults after I wrote a blog post. Yeah, of course the blog post was snarky and b*tchy and I never claimed it was General Conference worthy. But I also wrote it from the perspective of someone who ~did the things I was condemning, and was never targeting anyone in particular. So suddenly I had the wind knocked out of me that I could be so villainized, so misunderstood, so hated.

As time went on, I definitely learned a lot from it and was able to see through these very bitter anonymous eyes how I might appear to people I hadn’t even pictured reading my blog (Oh! You mean it’s not just my close personal friends who know me and can hear my voice as they read this, understanding where it’s coming from?). It was humbling and eye-opening, for sure. But I also felt like these uninvited anonymous ignorant dirty fingers had poked all these holes in me, and that it wasn’t deserved. It weighed on me for a long time.

A few months ago I read Brene Brown’s “Rising Strong” and one particular part seared my brain. I know I’ve talked about this before, and sorry, but I can’t stop. She talks about an experience with someone who was, for lack of a better word (well, there are better words but this is my favorite), a sh*tstorm. It made her so angry, threw her off, and she spent a lot of time poking holes. And she was totally justified! This person was a disaster! When she talks to her therapist, her therapist said “Well, generally, I believe people are doing the best they can.” WHAT. I keenly sympathized with Brene’s total lack of agreement. No. I do not believe people are doing the best they can!!!! Some people are. And they’re the ones with their lives together. Jobs. Functioning relationships. But most people can be doing A LOT BETTER.

She rapidly becomes obsessed with this idea, and talks to everyone about it, seeking for (confirmation bias) others who agree with her or at least rational reasons for people to believe that others are doing the best they can. Around this time she meets another mom and they fall into fast friendship. She, like Brene, has very high standards and expectations, and did not believe that people were doing their very best all of the time. They agree on multiple points, until this new friend starts into breastfeeding. “Everyone should breastfeed; it’s selfish not to. You shouldn’t even have a baby if you’re not willing to breastfeed and make it work!” Brene’s heart breaks, because she had a particularly difficult time breastfeeding and eventually quit. But her heart also breaks because she realizes: she HAD tried her very best with breastfeeding, but it might not look like that to very many people. She tries her best with pretty much everything, and sometimes she fails or it doesn’t look like much. So why wouldn’t that be the case for everyone else?

People, in general, are doing their best. 

This phrase has haunted me ever since. I’m not kidding. I think about it daily. I wrestle with it constantly. In my mind, I could fix everyone’s lives around me. I could MAKE them be their best, try their best, because they aren’t doing their best. There are no excuses for the way that so-and-so does that thing or how Miss Whatever raises her kids or the financial situation you see an acquaintance land in. They just aren’t doing their best!!!!!!!

But in my mind, I also know that I am doing my best. I am trying. And at a very painful and vulnerable time in my life when I was absolutely doing my very best and it felt like it was killing me, strangers (lord I hope they were strangers, because the idea that they were people who KNEW me is too much for me to bear) poked holes in ME.

I have to face the reality that people are probably poking holes in me all the time, no matter how perfect or impenetrable I may think I am. “She’s so judgmental. Such a know-it-all. Thinks she’s so funny. Nosy & gossipy. Prude. And did you know she keeps her daughter up until like midnight every night? Wow. For a teacher you’d think her daughter wouldn’t spend so much time on an iPad. What’s with her marriage? Do they even like each other? They both work but haven’t even bought a house because they’re irresponsible.” If you can think of others to add to this list, please keep them to yourself – I assure you I could keep going all day long. I can hate on Danica more than you can hate on Danica, because I’ve got even more dirt.

I poke holes in myself all day long, and anytime others poke holes in me it hurts like hell. So whyyyyyyyyyyy do I do it? I do it often, and to everyone. What’s wrong with them? What stupid thing did that person say? Did you hear what she did last week? Wait, what did he say? Did you know that she does this-particular-bad-mom-thing? BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH

It isn’t even fun. It isn’t even helpful. It doesn’t always make me feel better, except in the very rare instances where I need to remind myself that people are human and not perfect and that I don’t need to be either. But those can probably done more carefully, so they aren’t holes. I’ll figure it out eventually. Probably.

Poking holes hurts. Even if I think it’s just poking holes in the image of the person in my brain. One hole makes it easier to poke another, and soon there’s little left of that person to love or see or respect. One hole affects the way I see them, treat them, think of them, act around them. And it really sucks to realize that all the holes I’ve poked in some of the people I actually ~do love and admire aren’t the tiny little unnoticeable holes I thought they were.

It was on my mind for much of 2016, but I think I’ve found some traction for it in 2017. I’m still wayyyyy too pokey for my own good. But I have *resolved* to resist poking holes this year. When someone is sharing their political or religious beliefs, I’m going to try harder not to immediately poke holes in their argument, conjure up contradictions, or even allow it to affect the way I see them. When I see or hear a mom embracing a particular parenting/mom technique which I don’t necessarily agree with (this is probably the biggest one for me lately), I try to remember how it felt when someone accused me of being a bad mom because Reese is up so late. SHE SLEEPS LATE AND GREAT HOMIE BACK OFF IT WORKS FOR US. When consequences fall on a person, instead of giving a sassy little nod of “yeah! That’s what you get!,” I’ll think “Dang. That’s too bad. I’m sure they’ve been doing their best and hopefully they’ll bounce back better.” 

Key word, as always, is TRY. You’re gonna hear me poke holes in stuff. But I hope you’ll believe me when I say that now, more than ever, I understand the concept of believing the best in everyone and resisting judgement. As my Silver Fox says“Stop It.”

There’s a reason my home is messy. There’s a reason that car is tailgating me. There’s a reason that mom is letting her kids run wild in Target today. There’s a reason someone supports D*nald Tr*mp. There’s a reason someone breaks that rule or commandment.

In other words LET PPL LIVE 2017!!!!!!!

We’re all doing our best. And as soon as we see that and stop poking holes, everything will just get… better. Except Tr*mp. You’re on a short leash, buddy.

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7 thoughts on “Don’t Poke Holes”

  • 4 months ago

    The thing that’s helped me stop “poking holes” is by thinking of the “Good for her. Not for me.” line from Yes Please (replacing “her” with whatever pronoun or thing need be there). What works for someone else may not work for me (now or ever). And that’s okay! Unless it’s causing me actual harm or pain, there’s likely little to no reason to entertain thinking about it. Empathy goes a hell of a long way if we just let it do its thing.

  • 4 months ago

    One of my key takeaways from Daring Greatly was that we often “poke holes” in people in the areas we feel vulnerable in ourselves. I hadn’t realized how true this was until I ran into Mrs. Louboutin at the playground and became defensive when she needled me about timing and number of kids. Maybe I do have some vulnerabilities there I need to address, but my instant reaction was to knock her down a few notches to bring her back to reality. Realizing the times and situations when I feel like poking holes has been painfully eye-opening! Good on you for making it a resolution!

  • 4 months ago

    Amen. I need mercy, so I try to give it too. Love this blog entry. Love you!

  • 4 months ago

    I think we “poke holes” in others to make ourselves feel better about our vulnerabilities. Like when you tweeted about being fascinated with physically mismatched people, I realized you and Ryan are the most mismatched people I know. So that’s probably why you said it, marital insecurity. But, you probably owe the Lish’s an apology for that comment.

    • 4 months ago

      Thank you Angela, when we are offended, we will ask that person for an apology ourselves. No apology needed here though. BTW have we met?

  • 4 months ago

    I love this and I love how you mention poking holes in yourself. I’ve done that all too often, especially recently. Both my mom and my husband have told me numerous times to “stop it” and refute my claims–fill back up the holes, so to speak. My husband is probably the BEST with NOT poking holes and I strive to be more like him. I can be pretty judgemental sometimes, too…I think it’s a first born type A thing…

  • 4 months ago

    Is Angela for real or just the best troll to ever live, because that was some A+ trolling and I’m not above laughing at that 5ever. That said, Breanne is amazing.

    My own personal voyeurism aside, I know that my life changed for the better when I realized that “truth” looks different for different people, and that was okay. (Things like religious/political/social differences are usually two people with different truths that are equally real to them.)

What do you think?