When it comes right down to it, no matter what anyone does to us, we’re in control of our own feelings and mostly in control of our actions. Recently I was reminded of a time several years ago when I allowed someone to treat me horribly and I, in return, did the same. For a long time, I felt angry with myself about this, but now, I discover, I’m done being angry with anyone over that whole disaster.
At the time, I was newly out of a comfortable relationship and living alone. I was planning to leave my teaching position and move to a different city a lot further south. While I looked forward to that adventure, the prospect of it was also terrifying as big life changes often are. I guess I was looking for a distraction from my fear. I found a distraction, all right. It just goes to show that we should always be cautious about what we seek because we might find it.
It was the kind of relationship I’d never had before and not had since because, usually, I’m not bat-crap crazy. Back then and for a bit, I must’ve been because that’s the only explanation for my behaviour. It was an on-again, off-again kind of fiasco, rife with mind games and hurtful words and searing actions. I felt very small, and my own actions were mean and small. It’s embarrassing to think about now, but I think it’s a state most of us have experienced, so I don’t mind sharing. All of this mess happened years ago in another time and in another place.
Being an optimist and a people-lover, it’s hard for me to face the fact that there are always people in certain circumstances who will use others to benefit themselves. It’s even harder to face the fact that I have sometimes been one of those people.
Saints excluded, I think that to a greater or lesser degree, this element of self-preservation exists within most of us human beings. It’s just the way we’re wired and for evolutionary purposes, it’s probably come in really handy, this selfishness. It allowed us to survive and for our lineage to thrive. Fair enough in the jungle and in the caves, and I’d like to believe we can rise above that base instinct now and aim for something kinder, more beneficial to the entire species.
I admit that I was no innocent bystander in this craziness, no halo-draped angel. Nope, I was fully-engaged and I take responsibility for allowing the destructiveness to continue for as long as it did. I could have walked away any time. Finally, I did.
I had the opportunity to re-engage that person from so long ago. While I wish him health and happiness, I’m smarter now. When I saw it approaching, the wisdom I’ve acquired in the years between now and then told me to leap off the tracks and just let that train speed on by.
Wisdom also told me not to place dynamite on the tracks or to throw eggs at the passing cars. There’s no point. What good are they, those little actions that serve only to shrink and harden my heart? After all, it was a small, hard heart that got me into that situation and it’s a bigger, more open heart that’s keeping me out.