Wednesday, September 26, 2012
This one sided conversation took place this past weekend at my 25th high school reunion, and although I had many amazing encounters with people I haven't seen in years, although there were moments where I felt like Cinderella at the ball, what has stuck with me is this little slice of conversation with a human being who is so insignificant that I have probably had less than ten surface conversations with him in my entire lifetime. And perhaps that's what gets me. This man, this man who lives in my town, who owns several businesses, who's legendary for both the good and bad, this man who doesn't know of my joys, my struggles, my stories, my work, my successes or my failures, this man who for reasons unknown to me presumed to know me well--perhaps through rumors, perhaps through one-sided stories, perhaps through 2nd hand, 3rd hand or 4th hand accounts of moments and happenings, this man had placed me in a box, a box that was wrapped and had a tag attached to it that read: Handle With Care--Difficult Person Inside.
Perhaps it was appropriate that this small mindedness happened at my high school reunion. I think it is easy, easy for all of us to hear, see or remember something about a particular person or persons that may have taken place briefly and way in the past and BAM! we place them in a narrow cardboard container that have labels like "loose" or "volatile" or "liar" or "cold." Those boxes we put people in...those blasted boxes wrapped up tightly in paper and twine keeping the residents seemingly stagnant, all contorted and twisted and cramped in the tiny space we allow them. No room for growth. No room for change. No room to even stretch their legs and forget about unfurling any wings. Hasty decisions made about a person or people, assuming that we know a person based upon the way they were 25, 20, 10 years, heck even 10 days ago is presumptuous and kinda ignorant. Because here's a news flash...those boxes that they placed us in, those boxes that seem indestructible and permanent are anything but...
What these purveyors of our tiny libelous cubicles forget is that minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, moment by every-lovin' moment things happen that unravel the twine, rip the wrapping paper to shreds and burst the boxes we've been shoved into to minuscule pieces. Even if we tried to put the box back together, it would be forever changed like shattered glass re-glued into place. Shards would be missing, lines would indicate the fissures that still existed, and the pieces would no longer be as impenetrable as they were before. In short, those boxes would no longer be the same, because humans rarely stay the same.
We all change. It is inevitable. Relationships develop. Relationships end. Relationships teach us and help us to mature. Relationships will demolish our psyches and will reveal our strength. Children will fill our hearts and grown up children will break them. Friends come and go and leave behind valuable lessons that help us to grow and bend and sometimes snap in half. Over time we are forced to face the worst of ourselves and if we are really evolved we will set out to set those things right. There will be moments in which we will have to make moral decisions. Sometimes they will be right and sometimes we will choose wrong. No matter--because each outcome will hold life lessons that we couldn't do without, that will shape and mold us. Each and every experience whether gigantic or teeny weeny is monumental to creating the human we are today, and each day will bring new experiences that will make us different humans tomorrow.
So Mr. Snarky 25th Reunion Man, I'd like to change my answer if at all possible. What I should have said to you is "Yes, I used to be a difficult person. I was preoccupied by looking perfect--perfect family, perfect image, perfect marriage, perfect career. I was weak and surrounded myself with human beings who would dominate me and direct my every move. I needed to be acknowledged as the best and the brightest in order to feel some worth....any kind of worth. I was controlling and sometimes I did things, horrible things, without thinking about others' feelings. But life happened to me. I made many mistakes that taught me what it was like to live with humiliation and humility. I experienced heartache that brought me to my knees. I felt depressions so deep that I was sure that I'd be swallowed up in a black hole never to be seen again. I have also known the greatest of happinesses--the kind that make it feel like your feet are floating over the asphalt on an invisible magic carpet soaring over any obstacle in my way. I also know what it feels like to almost die and regain a semblance of health which taught me to appreciate each and every instant of my life;the good, the bad, the ugly, the horrific--I appreciate it all, because I am alive to encounter it all. I know the love and the warmth of a a child pressed against me and wrapped in my arms recognizing full well that the love they feel is unconditional. I know what it feels like for family to turn against you and for some to stand beside you. I have learned that I am never without fault and that it takes years and years and years of work to actually change who you are for the better. And just so you know Mr. Snarky Business Owner Hometown Boy, I have done the years of work. I continue to do the work. I am not perfect by any means. I have a long way to go. But you can't put me in a box, not any box, not even several boxes. Who I am is a totality of my experiences both good and bad, and unless you have walked beside me every second of every day, you couldn't possibly know me or my layers. You couldn't possibly label me and package me up in a neat and tidy box tied with a ribbon. You see, who I am doesn't fit in one box. The essence of me is expansive and wild and free. It is a seeker of knowledge and enlightenment. It is spacious and is constantly growing. And for those reasons and many more, I don't and won't ever fit inside your box. And although you offended me by placing me there in the first place I will make you a promise that I will try my hardest to be a better human an not put YOU in a box all tied up with twine and wrapped in paper with a label on it that says: Handle with Care--Narrow Mind Inside.