I’ve been remiss in creating updates about my garden because parts of our yard are literally under construction due to changes in drainage and expansions to our sidewalks. The tension I’ve felt over this project has been out of proportion to the event itself. Trying to pinpoint when an outdoor construction will take place is about as productive as guessing exactly when the cable repair person will arrive. The timing and shape of the event defies prediction.
I’ve suggested to my husband that we could have sped up the start of the sidewalk project by telling the contractor not to arrive on a certain morning because we’d be sleeping in due to some fictional day trip that had occurred the day before. I think he was just a bit offended over this suggestion, like I’d betrayed one of his clan. He himself has a job involving a bit of outdoor construction with a schedule is subject to the whims of weather and emergent repairs. The thought that fiction could tame the chaos of such work may have sounded outrageous to him.
In the time I’ve been away from this blog, I’ve had some “teachable” moments that have made me consider that I need a full-scale re-calibration of how I think of others and my place in this world. I suppose there’s no point in relating a story whose principle characters can’t be defined with precision, but I will tell you that I’ve recently been reminded that alcohol, negativity, and anger have nothing of value to offer.
I have no problem avoiding alcohol. There have been some years in this century in which I haven’t had a single drink with alcohol. In other years, I’ve had drinks a handful of times. I learned through personal experience and witnessing the alcoholism of family members that alcohol at best offers empty, fleeting joy and at worst leads to destruction. That’s not a popular point of view in this era, but it is one that is important to me.
For me, what is harder to avoid is the seductive force of anger and negativity. I think that anger is the easiest emotion to convey. It is easy to think that there’s strength to be drawn from anger and sarcasm, that one can emerge victorious by “telling it like it is.”
I’ve seen someone else self-destruct in negativity, and I’m taking a step back and noticing that I’m not so far behind that individual in the darkness of my feelings and thoughts. Lately when I’ve thought of many people I know in real life, I’ve done so to find the faults in those people. The habit reminds me of that moment when King Lear goes mad and proclaims, “Then let them anatomize Regan; see what breeds about her heart. Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?” (King Lear, 3:6:76-78).
The problem with “anatomizing” the people you know is that it becomes a mutual process. By focusing on the faults of others, you open yourself to much of the same criticism. The more cutting the judgement, the harder it is to resist sharing those thoughts. It is so tempting to get a laugh out of revealing how deluded and wrongheaded someone else is, always when the person commented upon is never close enough to hear your words. It is inevitable that people will eventually start talking about you when you leave the room, too. Eventually you’ll find out what those words are.
In real life, I’ve learned that I’ve failed to convince many (but not all) people that my chronic pain is real. It doesn’t matter that I have medical proof of the cause of my pain. The MRI’s and procedure records may as well not exist. Opinions about my parenting and my daughter are more divided. Some (again, but not all) people think my daughter doesn’t really have autism, that I’ve given her autism through bad parenting, or that I’ve failed to correct her autism through lack of discipline.
Long story short, silence is almost always the best choice when you notice the faults of other people. To give these things a voice invites a harsh verdict of yourself. Is there a greater emptiness than the no-holds-barred opinion others may have of you?
There is great truth and wisdom this the age-old advice:”If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
It is hard to be kind and easy to be mean. I’ve struggled so much with pain and uncertainty in the past two years that I’ve made the easy choice all too often. The harvest of these moments when I thought I’d been so clever to say what everyone else must be thinking has only been alienation and depression.
So I take my first steps into the light. I will try to think of no one unless those thoughts are kind. Likewise, I will try not to dwell on my failures of the past and present and the unknowns of the future. I will hope for a better harvest.