Monday, May 3, 2010

No one ever said it was going to be easy.

Whenever there is conflict our lives it is fitting for us all to take stock in the situation at hand. We have to look at things objectively, ask ourselves some hard questions and try to learn something in the aftermath of what can only be seen, at first glance, as devastation. Asking ourselves these hard questions is...well...hard. It is often difficult to know where to begin, or even what questions to ask ourselves. It can seem so much easier to tell ourselves that the other person is the one with the problem, that way we can continue to ignore our own issues and put them off on others. After a while of doing this, we begin to think that there are a lot of messed up people in the world and wonder how we, the only sane humans around, keep running into all these crazies. It become easier and easier to apply blame to the crazies and bury our own issues deeper and deeper.

Well, I for one, don't want to be that person. I don't want to bury my head in the sand and pretend I have no problems. I know full well that I do have problems, so who would I be kidding? I may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but I see no long term benefit from that kind of behavior. So, it is with this in mind, that I have remained here these past few days and pondered. I have asked myself the hard questions. Did I do enough? Could I have stopped it? What could I have done differently? Did I act in a mature manner or did I act in haste? Is my conscience clear? Answering these questions requires me to be brutally honest with myself. I can't shy away from it, or I risk becoming stuck in denial.

I have gone over and over some things in my mind and while I know that I am far from perfect, my conscience is clear. I did enough. It was not my responsibility to stop it or resolve it; I can't always be the grease that keeps the wheel running smoothly. Sure, things could always be done differently, but that doesn't mean that the outcome will be different and it is no guarantee that other problems won't pop up as a result. My actions, though not always seen as such, were done out of compassion, in truth and with deliberate consideration for all involved. Yes, I can say I have a clear conscience, but that doesn't mean the discomfort ends, nor does it mean that I can avoid working through the difficult feelings conflict stirs inside of me.

One thing I have learned over the past year, through a couple of different trying situations, is that I have changed. I am no longer the yes-person I once was. I no longer choose the feelings and avoid the reactions of others in deference to my own. I don't go along to get along like I used to. In addition, I no longer pick up the slack when it is not my job. This shift in my focus has not been comfortable for everyone. Some have seen it as selfish and cold. It took me a while to realize that the people who have viewed it as selfish and cold were the ones who had benefited the most from my former way of dealing with problems. These people were the ones I continually gave in to. They were the ones whose slack I used to pick up. The statement "You teach people how to treat you." comes to mind.

I have found that the friends worth keeping around are those who don't expect me to agree with them all the time. These are the same people on whom I depend to tell me the hard and honest truth about myself when need be. That is what real relationships look like. Real, grown up relationships have to be grounded in honesty and mutual respect. In adult life we get upset sometimes. People don't always agree with us. We can't take it personally. We have to learn to work through conflicts in a way that both parties come away with some dignity.

Sadly, I have come to realize that there are people out there who are simply not ready for real, honest, grown up relationships. They aren't ready to take responsibility for their own actions. They would rather shut down and/or trade barbs. They would rather surround themselves with people who support their habit of deflection and play into the state of denial in which they live. I don't play that game. I left the sandbox many, many years ago and I have no desire to get my feet dirty any time soon. I'm too old for that kind of thing. I have choices and I choose honesty, maturity and respect. If that leaves some people behind, then I mourn the loss, but I press on.