So often, I am inspired to sit down and write when something is bugging me. I think the yucky feeling tends to linger longer than those of joy, though I am working diligently to learn to let go of this propensity because it can be all-consuming, and it is not worth agonizing over the nasty stuff in life.
In this moment, I am feeling vexed by a particularly nasty message sent to me by a once very good friend. The note itself was troublesome but not earth shattering. To be honest, I was not entirely surprised by my friend’s response. Disappointed, but not surprised.
The email is simply the final straw in a series of events in a time of transition in my own life, as well as for my country and the rest of the world. The email is a reminder of just how difficult it is to achieve peace and empathy among people.
To some extent, we (and by we I mean people) are fundamentally quite similar. I say this not by way of promoting homogeneity. Rather, I mean that we all have basic needs that should be met. We all must breathe air; we all are deserving of equitable access to the resources that provide a high quality of life (healthy food, clean water, healthcare, etc.). You get the idea.
I believe in a sustainable world where people are seen as people first, rather than monsters. Very few of us are actual monsters. Alien, perhaps, but not monsters.
It is far easier to vilify than to empathize with another human being, particularly where fear or a feeling of being threatened is involved. Too often, I have witnessed and personally experienced the nastiness that comes when the latter path is taken.
I also know from experience that we are not all actually the same at all. We are born into distinct families and communities, the dynamics of which shape our perspective on the world and how we approach difficult situations. We walk our own unique path, and who and what we meet along the way serves to further shape our human mold. We also remember events differently than even the people who were there, standing right next to us.
While I do witness some beautiful empathy and understanding, and I try to follow this path myself, I also see the ease with which people succumb to the less heroic path. The presidential campaign and recent debates have been an interesting study in how difficult it is to shift from verbally committing to taking the high road to actually following that road.
In my own recent experience with a friend, I sent a message communicating about a pact made many years ago over material things and money. From the response that came several days later, which was pretty nasty and terse, it became clear that we each had very different memories of what had been decided. Even with the different memories, the tone of the response I received was not one I would expect from a friend, and I must admit a bit of shock at the intensity and extremity of it.
At first, I was really aggravated. My husband implored me to wait a while before responding. I know all too well how easy it would be to write back in kind, but I would feel awful about it. I wrote back one kind message and then another, apologizing for the miscommunication and suggesting we just forget it.
In reviewing emails exchanged from years earlier, it became clear how very grey those pacts were. I, for one, have always had a hard time creating healthy boundaries so I do not feel that I am being taken advantage of where money is concerned. When it comes to money and friends, I have had difficulty accepting money as payment for services rendered but later feel badly about working as a volunteer all of the time. I have gotten better and learned a lot from previous mistakes, but I am still a work in progress.
I can’t say that the nasty response endears me to this person, but I know that the response was likely inspired by any number of layers that make up a person. I also know that in the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how I respond. I can take the high road or the low road. The high road helps me sleep at now. The high road offers perspective.
People walk in and out of my life every day. I have lived in many places and in my travels have come to decipher my true friends. These are the people who engage in the dialogue, who see me fully, in all my rawness and vulnerability, and who accept and love me for the kind person I try to be and love me when I have moments where I struggle to be kind.
To you who have loved me in all kinds of weather, I am so grateful to you. To those who are not able to see me, I wish you clarity, love, and people in your own life who see you.