I’m typically an optimist. I believe in the goodness of people, and I try to be a good person myself. I like to believe that I have strong morals and values, and when I screw up, I apologize and change my behavior to the best of my ability. I believe that love is stronger than hate. I really do. So what happens, then, when I get smacked in the face with rudeness, meanness, or any other type of crappy behavior?
I’m often in disbelief.
Yes, you read that right. I often cannot believe it when people do shitty things. I try to rationalize the shitty thing. I try to tell myself they didn’t really mean the shitty thing. I even try to understand why they did the shitty thing. I will sometimes even ask them about the shitty thing.
And what happens then? Well, I’m covered and drowning in someone else’s shitty thing.
What I am finally learning in middle age is to believe what I see when I see it, accept it, and move on with my life. For someone like me, this is actually really hard to do. Maybe I’m co-dependent; maybe I’m stupid. But what I know for sure is that I have to practice letting people do, be, say, and live who they are without trying to figure them out. It’s not my job to do that; it’s theirs.
For a long portion of my life, I thought my actions could change outcomes. And they can, if the outcome only affects me. But where others are involved, I can only do my best and accept that what they do is also their best. Our bests may be completely different. In fact, they often are. And that’s where the acceptance comes in.
The longer I live and the more I experience, the more I see that some people really grow in their lives, and others stagnate. I have been in both places in my life. The growth periods have never been easy – mainly because those are the times I’ve been looking at someone else’s behavior and asking myself what the hell they’re doing. Acceptance is hard. Self-awareness is hard. It’s not fun to feel like you’re on the short end of the stick with anything.
But sitting and drowning in self-pity and disbelief has never, ever moved me forward. Experiencing those things makes me human. Facing the reality of whatever is in front of me makes me grow.