Am I conditional?

Dog Sign

I just scrapped yesterday’s post. I spent hours trying to say something and I just couldn’t seem to force the words out, or at least force them out the way I wanted them to flow. Coincidentally, the reason I tried to write yesterday’s post in the first place was pretty simple. See, I called my friend and asked her for writing ideas. I needed a little break from talking about health issues and knew she would have something thought-provoking to say.

Hilariously she responded, “Oh man. I should keep a post-it pad with me. I am always having ideas and I think, ‘hey, Beth should really write about this.’ Wait.  Wait. I had one. Give me a second. Give me a second. Nope. It’s gone.”  I was determined to get a nudge. With that we moved on and tried to think of more ideas. And you know what trying to think of more ideas does, don’t you?  It leads you to that scary land of really deep thoughts. We talked some more anyway.

We talked about our small town, which we both agree should seriously have its own Real Housewives of Park City  TV series.  We talked about the industries we have both worked in and then we got really profound (or at least I thought we were profound) and talked about the state of the world around us. What we concluded is that our world seems to have drifted into this very conditional space, a space where our actions seem based on a set of qualifications and requirements we project onto ourselves and others? And within this very conditional space there seems to be a sort of disconnect between the way people really are and  how they want to the world to see them (that was her lovely husband’s input, by the way).  As we continued our conversation, I wondered what, if any, specific thing was the cause of all of this strings-attached living?  Are we conditional because we have been hurt?  Are we so protective of our own space on this planet because of the conditioned need to succeed?  Is it the bad economy or  are we so self-serving because we just have opportunities to achieve so much? I was searching for something to blame and never could quite put my finger on any one thing.  Seriously, who am I to point a finger anyway? As we continued, I  realized that even if I do not know what the cause is that this conditional way of living seems to bleed into every aspect of our lives.

Eventually and searching for a metaphor, I said something like,

“It is like once you get to the top of the mountain there is only so much space.”

To which my friend responded,

“Once there are you someone who will smile and give someone a hand and help them up,”

To which I immediately interjected, “or someone who will push the person reaching for your hand over off the cliff?”

We talked around this sensitive issue. I mean, come on, who wants to see themselves as selfish, exclusive, self-serving or just plain mean?  I don’t.  Eventually and probably because we had kids and life and jobs to focus on, in one lovely breath my friend summed it all up. Here is what she said,

We live in a world formed by a set of tacit rules that nobody would write down or dare say out loud because they are so awful.

“Brilliant. That is brilliant.” I told her.

Since our conversation I have been thinking, thinking a lot and asking myself, ” Do we really have this ugly set of  unwritten rules and conditions we live by?  And if we really do have a list of unwritten rules, I want to be and hope I am a what-you-see-is-what-you-get person, but am I?”  I have been thinking so much my brain filled itself with a giant and overly analytical log jam.

After all of our talking and all of my thinking, I have tried to break it all down. I have concluded that there seem to be two (at least) aspects to a person: One is the person we like to see ourselves as and  the other is the person we really are. The sting is that if this is the direction humanity is going it isn’t very pretty, you know what I mean? Of course I tried to come up with some examples of each and here they are:

How we see ourselves: I think I am open to all people and I imply that I am open and generous.  I want you all to know how easy going I am because I am.  I am so comfortable in my own skin.  I would give you the shirt off of my back.


The unwritten rules or who they really are:  I would rather have a bigger car then help you.  It really does matter how you look.  I do care how much web traffic you get or how many people follow you on Twitter. I feel terrible about myself and that is why I say terrible things about you, use botox, make myself throw up, starve myself,  exercise for countless hours, think about drinking all day long, care about how I look and who I hang out with. I do care if you go to the gym. When you leave the room, I do talk about you.  I do care how much money you have or if you fit into the right social group. If you don’t, I do not want to be around you.  I will only talk to you when others are not looking. I will notice you once someone else notices you. I think you are weird because you do not drink. My kids cannot play with your kids because you do not go to church. My children are perfect. Your kids are not. . . Most importantly,  my love and how I treat you is absolutely conditional.

Truth be told, I think we might be a little of both.

. . . When someone reaches for a space beside me will I smile and give them a hand, pretend I do not see them or do my best to push them off the cliff?





12 thoughts on “Am I conditional?

  1. Sorry if that came off as a weird response. I find usually when I just say what I mean, people are put off, so I try to ask questions instead and see where they end up. What about that question makes you think I am messing with you? However you answer that question gets you to a definition, which helps you get on the road to your ultimate answer. It’s really a fascinating subject that you have brought up, Beth. One that has very serious consequenses for everyone who looks at it honestly.

  2. Scott, it wasn’t weird. Sorry it took me a few days to respond. I haven’t seen you in years so I was not sure how to take what you wrote. That is all. I agree with what your saying and I am glad you weighed in. Thank you for appreciating what I said. Being conditional or unconditional or somewhere in the middle has always been something I have thought about.

  3. So you agree that we are conditional? We haven’t “drifted” there. That’s what we are. But what you wrote makes that sound like a bad thing. Like it is something we have to hide and feel guilty about. That sounds like un-earned guilt to me. Why should we feel guilty about the way we are?

    As to my initial question about love and whether it can be unconditional: No it can’t. In order to love someone or something, there has be be something about its value that you react emotionally to. The whole idea of “unconditional love” is something that was made up by someone a long time ago that wanted your money or wanted you to feel guilty so they could control you.

  4. See what I mean? I just come out and say what I think ( instead of asking a question) and then people stop replying.

  5. Scott, first of all forgive me for not responding to your last comment. I was leaving town and simply got distracted. True Story. I don’t think I responded to many of the comments that day. It was a time constraint.

    And if it matters one way or the other I just don’t seem to get offended and your comment was thoughtful and not offensive. I don’t completely agree with you and I do not feel like you expected I should. I have copied it here and now I will respond 🙂

    YOUR COMMENT: “So you agree that we are conditional? We haven’t “drifted” there. That’s what we are. But what you wrote makes that sound like a bad thing. Like it is something we have to hide and feel guilty about. That sounds like un-earned guilt to me. Why should we feel guilty about the way we are?

    As to my initial question about love and whether it can be unconditional: No it can’t. In order to love someone or something, there has be be something about its value that you react emotionally to. The whole idea of “unconditional love” is something that was made up by someone a long time ago that wanted your money or wanted you to feel guilty so they could control you.”

    MY ANSWER: Yes, I do agree that we are by nature, conditional. I mean, I chose to live in Utah not Minnesota. So basically I am setting my “living” conditions (maybe a weak example). Yes, do I try to monitor/(condition) some of the people I hang around? Of course I do. That being said, I do think there are aspects of being conditional that we can control and are not very nice. Do I like that someone does not want to be around me because they have decided (without really knowing me) that I am either too religious are not religious enough? No. Don’t like that. Never have. Never will. Do I think it is ok to pick your friends based on their clothing size? Nope. Do I think it is ok to chose your friends? YES.

    I also think you misunderstood what I wrote: – I think those hidden rules can be shameful, however, the only the person who decides if they should feel guilty about them or not is the person who makes them. I know plenty of people who are fine and do not feel shameful because the unspoken conditions they set on others. Does that make them bad? If you asked them, they would deny that they are this way so really it is up to them wether they feel shameful or not. My judgment is that I do not think it is nice to represent yourself one way and actually be another.

    As far as guilt, do you feel guilty about who you are? Again, I fell like guilt is a choice. Obviously, I cannot answer that question for you.

    I love what you say about unconditional love. I would not say it the way you did because I am not you. I agree with you to a point. Yes, there is the whole value and reacting and then based on that I feel we define what unconditional means. And honestly, I do feel like I have “unconditional” love for my children. I hope I made sense.

  6. Beth, No problem with you not responding. I understand you got busy. I would have just let the whole thing go, but I just thought it was ironic after reading the blog you posted today about wishing more people paid attention to your blogs. I’m glad you did respond though.

    As to the first paragraph of your ANSWER: Yes, as rational human beings we have to be conditional. I would describe what you are pointing out as being a bad thing in that paragraph is when people are being “petty”, not conditional. People have to be conditional. They are petty to their own detriment.

    Your second paragraph seems to take issue with people being phony. Of course when people are phony, they are only fooling themselves. But I was trying to get to the deeper issue, of why they feel they need to be phony. I believe it is because they have accepted a moral system that is not practicable in real life. When they try to apply a moral system that isn’t based in reality, and runs contrary to their real life, it makes them feel like a failure. A lot of people waste a lot of time and energy feeling guilty for things they shouldn’t have accepted in the first place.

    I am confused on your statement about how if someone thinks they are acting shamefully they decide whether or not they should feel guilty about it. If a person is acting shamefully, they should feel guilty. The question is, what actions are shameful? If you accept altruism as a moral ideal, you will never be able to act on it in a full way, then you will end up with unearned guilt (see my paragraph above).

    No, I don’t feel guilty, but I don’t accept a moral system that isn’t practicable.

    I still don’t know how love can be unconditional, even for your own kids. But I have a 7 and an 8 year old of my own, and I understand how a parent would think love for their kids is unconditional, since there is so much to love about them.

    This is fun! Thanks for your reply!

  7. Scott, You have once again given me a lot to think about. You are extremely well spoken and articulate. Please give me a minute to gather my thoughts. I love what you had to say. Now fun, I am not sure about that [wink wink].

  8. I think that when we are forced to act like a computer, making one ‘decision’ after another, we have to categorize things, set boundaries, and make everything ‘conditional’. When we are overwhelmed about everything, even “where should I give my charity”, etc., we have to know “why” we make our decisions, and define the characteristics of things that make them worthy. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the speed at which things happen these days.

    On the other hand, when we’re relaxed and feel peaceful and calm about things, we are able to face things as they are and as they come, rather than waiting until they fulfill a requirement. For that reason, I won’t try to categorize conditional and unconditional and how I love different people or things or myself. It’s enough to know that I just have abundant love for right here, right now.

  9. Tammy,

    I love how you think and actually agree. Your words sifted out and made sense of the feelings I have had. I agree that it should be enough that we have abundant love for here and now (with some really good boundaries too). Thank you!

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