I first learned this lesson years ago, back in high school, when the “popular” boys were nicer to me than their girlfriends (thank you, Tim Richards and Joe Volpe). It confused me at first, but then I realized that their behavior said nothing about me, and everything about them. I remember this voice, from somewhere deep inside me, saying “Their rudeness is a poor reflection of them, not you.”
It was a powerful realization, then – and again today.
I’m not sure why I’m re-learning it now. Perhaps because the last few years have been so hard on me, I started to doubt myself. My self-esteem has definitely taken a beating. With so many things going wrong, no matter how hard I tried to stay positive, “find the lesson,” and keep trying – I couldn’t help to blame myself. I mean, after a while, you start to look for the common denominator, which was me.
I honestly started to wonder if there was something inherently “bad” about me. I’m a spiritual person, so there are no coincidences. Maybe I had been awful in a past life. Or with past boyfriends and friends. I know I’m not perfect, and there are always things I can do better: be more patient, listen more, be more giving… so maybe I was being punished.
When life gets tough, I believe we should look for the lesson in the situation and aspire to do better. That’s why we’re here – to grow and learn. But I also know the self-flagellation I was subjecting myself to wasn’t helping to do that. Instead it made things worse.
But now that things are beginning to change, and I have a bit of perspective, I think the biggest factor for my self-loathing was feeling so disconnected from others.
In the last few years I’ve lost the man I believed to be my soulmate, my sweet baby Praline, many fair-weather friends who couldn’t handle my sadness, and a few more friends to marriage, kids, and moving away. It’s been a lot of loss.
I’ve done my best to soldier on, on my own. And I truly do enjoy my alone time, I always have. But life is about balance, and as much as I tried to be social, I often found myself feeling more empty or alone after an evening out with new friends. Thank God for my parents – I honestly don’t know what I’d have done without their unconditional love and support.
I think we all search, consciously or subconsciously, for people who “get” us. Those of us who are fortunate to remain close with childhood friends, or who stay close to home, are often born into these friendships. But those of us who move away and – like me – stay single long enough to watch friends marry and move on, we’re often challenged with the task of making new friends throughout our adult lives. And it’s hard! For me it’s as difficult (and often disappointing) as dating.
But then I spent this holiday weekend with a group of new friends that reminded me how effortless it can be when you meet the right people with whom you just “click.” I feel blessed to have met them, and hope I have finally found “my people” – a group of spiritually and creatively connected men and women who speak my language and make me feel that I belong somewhere. They are an affirmation that my discomfort and lack of connection with others in the past wasn’t some sort of lacking in me. But rather, a mismatch of energies.
It’s a reminder, that when people are cold to you, it’s them – not you. If they’re mean, rude, or otherwise indifferent, it’s their crap not yours. Kind people are kind people – to everyone. Yes, there can be misunderstandings, and we can all rub people the wrong way. But no matter what someone else might think you have said or done, how they choose to respond to you is up to them. And vice versa.