“There’s a special place in my heart for the ones who were with me at my lowest and still loved me when I wasn’t very loveable.”
Eighth entry, so it’s time for some eighth date dirt. My three worst qualities are, in no particular order: stubbornness, arrogance, and a tendency to abandon projects (good luck, blog). I chose those three because whenever I look at Aries’ personality summaries, I say, “All that good stuff is true, but dearie me, it seems like the writer mistakenly put some of those other signs’ bad qualities under my sign,” because I like being impulsive and confrontational (…which is probably the arrogance and the stubbornness speaking).
Still, I strive to be an awesome person in spite of my worst qualities. To do that, I try to uphold two predominating qualities: kindness to everyone, and absolute honesty.
The key word there is “try.” As a human person with flaws, I fail from time to time. I have a slow-acting temper, so while it takes a lot to set me off, when I am set off, I can be…unpicniclike for a while. That’s why I always keep those two qualities in mind–so that even when I fall short of upholding them, I’ll know when I’ve stepped over the line so I can learn from my mistakes.
Luckily, telling the truth can be pretty easy. For example:
“Did you break that lamp?”
“Did you defraud the trust funds of 10,000,000 kittens?”
But it becomes more difficult when the questions are:
“Why don’t you love what I love?”
“Is that my baby?”
“Is this your friend’s bloody My Little Pony chainsaw?”
I will now raise my hand and admit I’ve lied more than once in the last month. But it’s like soda in that when you partake of it after a long time without it, your tongue burns out of your mouth and Satan chases you around with his trident for a while, and when all the pain is over you think, “Maybe I won’t partake of that again.” Even though I still lie, I’ve found that trying to tell nothing but the truth does two things for me:
1) I think about what I’m saying more. I figure to give an honest opinion on something, I have to know what that opinion is first. I lied a lot about myself and what I loved and hated when I was younger because I didn’t understand much about myself yet, so I kind of had to fill in the blank spots sometimes. (“Do you like cauliflower?” “NO IT’S DISGUSTING NOW EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT CAULIFLOWER IS.”) So, if someone asks me what I think about the latest news story that everyone seems to know about and I don’t know a thing about it, I say, “No idea, what’s happening?” because if I say, “Oh, it’s awful,” and it turns out that I actually think it’s pretty cool that there’s a talking dog device in production, then I’m going to have to go through all kinds of mental gymnastics to get back to my actual opinion. (“I just meant…it’s awful in the sense that…I mean, like. That technology could be applied to much worthier causes, y’know? I don’t have a dog, I have a cat. If it was a talking cat device, I would have said, ‘Oh, dude, that’s awesome!’ right away.”) The less time I spend making up lies to cover the first lie, the more time I have to read articles about talking dogs.
2) Honesty made me more confident. Once, a girl made a look of disgust at my iPod and said to me, “This is what you like?” and nine-year-old me might have lied and said, “No, of course not. In fact, I hate it. Let’s smash their CDs with a hammer.” (Nine-year-old me might have, in fact, smashed her favorite Hanson CD with a painted brick she’d made in art class just to satisfy the scorn of her nine-year-old friend. She was not happy when her friend went home and she had no more CD, just a lot of dangerous, undersized mirrors.) However, since I was twenty-six when the girl asked me this question, I said, “Yeah, it is,” and the girl looked deeply unhappy with my life choices and proceeded to educate me on “good music.” I shrugged and walked away from the conversation with the satisfaction that I’d stood by my music and didn’t have to resort to tearing hers down to better appreciate mine.
So! Honesty is awesome and admirable and all, but it becomes a challenging quality to uphold when you’re confronted with situations you reeeally don’t want to be in (“Why is there a head in the freezer?”) or people you reeeally don’t get along with. Even worse (worse than the head in the fridge, yes), you may be friends with someone who irritates you, or has things you envy, or lives a life you feel isn’t as challenging as your own. In cases when that friend has done something to hurt your pride, intentionally or not, it’s tempting to vent to someone else who isn’t involved to get your head together. But I think that’s a bad idea.
I think this general rule of thumb works: if the urge to vent about a friend appears, I run through it in my head first. If it’s something I wouldn’t say to the person directly, I probably shouldn’t say it to anyone else. Instead, I sit down with that friend and try to tell them my side of things instead of someone who isn’t involved. If I have an argument with B and I tell my best friend C, C is obligated by the urges of friendship to side with me, even if I cut off B’s leg and B was simply demanding to have it back (nananananana, gotchyer leg). Most of the time, C will help me tear B apart and whatever original issue will get larger and fester. I’m not afraid of confrontation–I used to be, but I’m getting more and more comfortable with it the more I realize how necessary it is for smooth communication. Whether it’s a small problem (“My roommate leaves her towels on the bathroom floor and they smell like mold and she drinks all my beer and blames it on the canary”) or a big problem (“He didn’t tell me Leia’s my sister”), I try to explain my side to the person the way I’d like someone to explain it to me. It’s a mutual respect thing (or, in sciencey terms, not being a dickmonkey to people).
In college I decided to make it A Thing I Do to make sure that anything I say about people who aren’t present is no different from what I’d say to them directly. Recently, I’ve decided that’s too vague and I’ve made it more concrete: if I haven’t already discussed something with the friend in question, I won’t say it to anyone else. Basically, it’s the “if you can’t say something nice” rule. (I do, however, give myself the freedom to grimace if someone brings up someone distasteful like the cockroach from my first apartment who proved he could fly right in my face.) If I ever say something negative about someone I care about to someone else, it means there’s an issue there and it needs to be discussed with the actual person, not with anyone else. I don’t like keeping anything hidden from the people I care about. It’s so easy to take people apart when they’re not present, so I see things like Twitter and Tumblr as potentially dangerous to relationships because it removes the risk and responsibility from people. It’s easy to type, “WTF is wrong with him?” but it’s not helpful to fixing the problem. Whatever he did, odds are he’s not going to stop and be nice because someone was a dick about him on Twitter (he might, in which case he’s lovely and far more forgiving than I am).
Okay, so now that I’ve finished explaining what a virtuous and lovely human person I am, it’s time for me to go back to the less attractive things in my roster of attributes.
When it comes to people I don’t get along with, I usually put some distance between us and try to think about things from their perspective. I always know my side, and every person is the hero of his or her own story. If I only think about things from my side, then I’m always right, but that’s a dangerous way to live. If, when I’ve put myself in their position and I don’t believe we can see eye to eye someday, I keep that distance. Even though I believe that every person I’ve ever called a friend is a good person at heart, sometimes dynamics can turn toxic. People go into dark places due to stress or tragedy and they’ll lash out at the people around them. Sometimes, I’ve walked away from people who needed me because I was hurt and I let that be my priority. But I’ve also been in that spiral where stress and frustration made me lose all those lovely virtuous logical things I talked about up there and I became someone I would have left. After that dark period finished, I looked around at the people who stayed with me unswervingly even though I’d been an irritating gnat, and I realized what profound treasures friends are.
I think it’s also wise to leave the door open in case the people who left you ever want to come back.
Being the person who sticks it out with a friend through their struggles, you think, “But I love you, you annoying fucker, why would I leave?” or perhaps something slightly less profane. When you’re the one who’s been acting poorly, however, and you look up and see the people who stuck with you, it’s a very humbling feeling. Some of my friendships have been easygoing, because there wasn’t usually much drama on my end of things. Well. The expected run-of-the-mill drama of, “HE DOESN’T LOVE ME THIS IS UNJUST I STAB ALL THE THINGS WITH MY WRITING PEN OF JILTED PAIN,” but only a few instances of, “RAWR LIFE HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY UNFAIR TO ME I SLAP YOU WITH ANGRY WORDS FOR SOMETHING I WOULD NOT NORMALLY FIND BOTHERSOME.” Like I said, though, I have a slow-acting temper, so when it goes, it’s gone for a while. It’s like how your finger is usually all happy and finger-like until you slice it open with the keen edge of an errant paper blade and then every time you shower for a while after that you sink to the floor in indescribable agony.
The older I get, the more I learn. I’ve learned to go into any friendship understanding that we’re going to disagree. It may be on something small (“Snakes are gross.” “You’re gross.”) or something big (“Voldemort is back!” “No, he isn’t.”) but I’ve decided that it’s generally a good idea to be mentally prepared for an argument so I’m able to put myself in my friend’s shoes so I can understand my friend’s side of things instead of just jumping in and beating them with the golden mace of My Opinion. Also, I’ve decided to try and figure out where my friends normally stand on things, so I can tell the difference between a personality trait like arrogance or stubbornness aaand stress making my friend into a temporary doucheweasel. Sometimes people will say stupid things out of turn, and it’s a friend’s job to say, “You said a stupid thing.” …Your actual words may vary depending on your dynamic. (IE: “You have said a stupid thing.”)
So, I’ll end this on a happy note (since I just remembered this is supposed to be a happy blog of happy things):
One of my best friends is a gem of a human person whose name begins with J. When we were first getting to know each other, she told me that she’s a Christian. I, on the other hand, am a devout theist (all this existence stuff was made somehow, and while I have many ideas and theories, that’s all the beliefs I have on the subject). After we spent more time together, we had a few calm conversations about religion that would make an after school special splutter with envy. The first one lasted a few hours wherein we both explained how we’d arrived at our respective stances on religion. At one point, while she was in the bathroom, I let everything we’d said so far soak in. I thought, I may have grown up with her chosen religion and decided it wasn’t right for me, but that doesn’t mean I want to show any disrespect to her religious beliefs. Because of those conversations, our difference in religion has always been a non-issue. She’s one of my dearest friends, and a large part of my trust in her comes from the trust she’s put in me. She’s much more wizened about how to be a loving person than I am, and I find myself looking to her as an example a lot of the time (HOT SERVING OF PRESSURE FOR YOU, LOVELYFACE FRIEND J). In a lot of ways, my friendship with her has made me understand how necessary it is to have mutual respect for everyone. And if they don’t respect you, back away. The energy spent hating someone or ripping someone apart or lying or feeling stubborn could be fueled toward eating popcorn and doing something kind for someone that is scientifically proven to raise your endorphin levels.
Above all, the thing I always want to keep in mind is that I’m still figuring who I am, and the person I want to be.
Also, all my music is awesome and I’ll kick the teddy bear of anyone who says otherwise.