I once loved a man in whose potential I believed deeply.
Our bond was built on a shared desire to live free from shame, a promise I made to myself when I was 20 and echoed by him years later when we met.
Though he and I lived toward the same end – the goal of giving no fucks – it took time to realize that his expression of that desire and mine rested on two completely different pillars.
I’d call the relationship a mistake if I believed in such things. On the contrary, I’ve come to see that any bit of love that I have laid on even the dustiest altars was the right decision. Put differently, I give no fucks if a person I loved could not love me back in the same way. But I give enough fucks about the value of my love to not continue to making offerings where they cannot be received.
The road on which this man and I split was this phrase – I give no fucks – that is so common in our days. There are two uses of it, and each has its own way of creating a reality in which we live.
This man, like so many who are hurting deeply, used his lack of fucks as an attempt to deflect, to cloud the deep well of feeling that we humans are biologically, psychologically, and spiritually attuned to feel. He gave no fucks about taking all of mine, of milking the nectar to consume what he could not create. It hurts to love this way, and it took everything in me to stop.
The Secret of the Fucks
This is the secret that our fucks hinge upon: we are animals, yet we are among a handful of sentient animals on this planet. This means we are instinctually designed to care when those around us are suffering or laughing or have gone so numb they cannot feel. This is called empathy, a trait so inherent to us that we may not realize it is happening.
This is key – we don’t realize how much we care. This is why it’s easy to take on too much, too fast and become so overwhelmed that we shut down to taking on any more.
That shut down – while protective in its nature – must be tended to carefully. Crude attempts to touch those scars with an axe instead of a tender hand can lead to more hurt, less trust, and a belief that the world is cruel. Enough experiences like this makes us callous over with a belief that we don’t give a fuck, when the root of the matter is that we give far more fucks than we realize.
The Secret of Empathy
Before this lover, I was not so attuned to the subtle difference between the way our fucks are used. (Our best teachers often come in our greatest challenges.)
Because of him, when I hear someone say, “I don’t give a fuck,” in the insensitive use now, I immediately look for their untended pain. Because this is a declaration of a person who cares a great deal, but simply lacks the emotional vocabulary to express how it feels to feel this deeply.
But there is another side of fucklessness, one that I learned in the wake of destroying that relationship. Its use is a declaration of freedom, a recognition of the trap of caring far too much about what others might think to our own detriment and also the key to open those rusty cages.
The problem with our empathetic nature is that it can lead us to give too many fucks about how others feel about how we want to live. To support others’ comfort, we try to fit in to a society that, quite often, adheres to the moral compass of a sociopath. Rather than tripping over our emotional shoelaces for the sake of making others happy, we must stop caring if the current groupthink of the moment allows us into its club.
Yet, giving no fucks as a path of preserving our values doesn’t require us to remove our ability to care about another person’s pain, worth, and needs. Indeed, they can coexist.
The Day I Gave My Last Fuck
The day I cut off communication with this man was the day I realized what it meant to care about someone deeply, to wish for his continued healing, and also not give a fuck about sticking around to watch it unfold.
I gave – and still give – many fucks about all he has gone through, but I give no fucks about walking away. I give no fucks about what he says about me when he tells his story. I give no fucks about what people think of me, someone who offered her love to someone who wore so many red flags I stopped thinking green was a color.
In order to preserve my precious little heart, I could no longer give a fuck if this man I loved would be hurt by me walking away.
How to Care
Here is the paradox that exists in these two fucks not given: We must give a fuck about people. Deeply. Wholly. Repeatedly. But we can offer no more fucks to anyone or anything that asks us to twist our spines until they break under the weight.
There are many ways we can direct our care, but we must protect ourselves from believing it is up to us alone to unpack the entire suitcase of problems a person who arrives on our path carries. Ours is a world that has far too many people who cause pain, and too few people who truly care enough to heal. We will kill ourselves in futility if we believe that we are personally responsible for making right on all the wrongs.
This is not to say we should give up and live without caring what happens to those around us or caring what others think about us. Not at all. We must care – in fact we can’t help caring – but we cannot care so much that we forget to care about our limits. The greatest fuck we can give is about whether or not we can maintain our empathy without destroying our dignity.
Personal and Political
Take this art of the higher state of fucklessness as a personal action, or take it global. Gold exists in both places. But be sure that when you are out there, in intimate relations or political, the fucks you give (or don’t) are generative, not destructive. They should give you the tools to stay permeable without needing to adopt every stray animal that comes wagging its tail up your path.
The fucks you give should give you strength, deeper compassion, and clear boundaries. They should be fluid and constantly in question. They should allow you to be kind, without having to be nice.
Put differently, the kind of fucks you give should lead you to a wise and shameless life, no matter where you place them.
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