Finding the Art in Everything

16 January, 2008

Driving Thoughts Part II

I have a really wise friend who has kids my age. Those extra years and family days she has on me have made her a genius, as far as I can tell. I hope I get to be just like her.

Lately, I have been struggling with several things that seem rather one-sided, including my sister's contentious wedding. My friend and I were talking and she said she makes it a policy not to care about an issue or another person's issue more than they do. She pointed out that it isn't healthy or productive. It sounds good to me, though it may not quite be a fail safe plan for "healthy and productive." It doesn't account for any kind of sentimental myopia, where I figure I am the only one who cares and I turn out to be wrong. Still, I find this error preferable to the agony of caring too much.

I can't explain how much I wish I had this advice 7 years ago. My sophomore year in college, I started being friends with a guy who made me crazy. He was insufferable, but I was drawn to him because we had everything in common, including music and a rare sarcasm. We had days that were inexplicably hot or cold--it was arbitrary. I never knew if he was my friend. I would insist that there was some subsurface tension or cause, and he would brush it off like I was the crazy one. (Hindsight shows I wasn't.) The hot and cold with him was exasperating and deeply destabilizing. I figured it was all my fault but I couldn't understand how. We fought all the time (more like I yelled at him in my head--there were no gratifying, direct exchanges) and I constantly vowed never to talk to him again.

The whole thing resulted from two broken people trying to be friends in spite of their dysfunction. (We had both just seen the end of significant relationships and carried a lot of hurt.) Eventually, we became close friends, but that beginning was rough. His head games and my sensitivity stemmed from baggage that was, right then, insurmountable. Our friendship needed time and patience. Instead of internalizing the perlexing strife, I could have rejected responsibility that didn't belong to me. That wasn't my mess to save. I could have used the rule: Don't care more than the other person. It spares you the fight for something that can't be won by fighting.

And that is something I don't readily accept:

Many fewer battles are won by fighting than I suppose,
and not every battle is mine to fight...
which is my most noble excuse for not talking to my sister.

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