A funny thing happened this week. For a moment, it had me reeling, and then I decided I’d had enough… I QUIT!
It wasn’t a job. It wasn’t a contract. It wasn’t even a relationship… well, not really.
It was to do with a relationship though.
You see, there’s been someone nipping at my heels for months. Someone I used to consider a pal, but then grew tired of hearing her saying cruel things about others. I tried talking to her about it, but she wasn’t really interested.
Eventually, the inevitable happened… she started saying cruel things about me too.
Now, it could be that she’d been saying these things all along – a simple case of the grapevine taking its time and me being horribly naive – but that doesn’t really matter.
What matters here is the concept of quitting.
I’d done all the usual grown up things – tried to have a conversation about it, get to the bottom of what was going on, clear the air, but those situations really take two to tango.
I’d tried ignoring the things being said – even tried putting it down to misunderstandings and miscommunication, but the same things kept coming back from too many sources too frequently.
I breathed deeply. I never lost my temper. I was polite when our paths crossed. I kept sending love and good thoughts… after all, we never know what’s really going on with a person to make them behave that way, do we? What’s that old saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes?
Eventually, I just started to keep my distance. The whispers kept coming though: untruths about me, personal slurs, nasty comments about my business, wild accusations about my professional performance – really low-level, below-the-belt, ‘Mean Girls’ playground stuff.
I kept on shrugging it off. I kept on wondering what the teaching was; was this just that old bullying issue raising its ugly head again? Some unknown universal force checking in to see I was still walking my talk and remembering the teachings?
The lesson couldn’t be about confronting the issue and calmly adulting my way to common ground – I’d tried that three times and the other party refused to enter into the discussion.
Was it about turning the other cheek? I was doing that too and, despite all I’ve learned about the importance of knowing oneself, about others’ words not being able to hurt us if we know the truth of who we are, the slurs still stung.
Was that it? Maybe this was about learning to become a bit more Teflon – maybe this was about getting to the point where I honestly didn’t let her crazy comments hurt me.
I pondered and pondered and pondered and I couldn’t entirely shift the hurt OR get to the bottom of why it was happening in a satisfactory manner.
Other people kept giving me reasons… they said she was jealous of my popularity, jealous of the success she saw in my life, jealous of the opportunities coming my way. That may be so. I have no idea. I just know, for me, jealousy is no excuse for being mean.
So, maybe that was it… maybe this was purely a lesson in value sets… maybe this was just about accepting that my expectation levels were different to those of others when it came to friendships and relationships. Maybe this behaviour was just the norm for her. Maybe she expected me to do the same and thought this was what being a grown up was all about. She’d have to play on her own in that case…
I was beginning to let sleeping dogs lie when another cloud of drama dust began to stir. Seemed this same lady had been saying nasty things about some of my loved ones as well – and some of them had been really upset. Wow! It’s one thing for someone to be mean about me, it’s quite another to see people I love being attacked in the same way and by the same assailant.
So, what to do?
Could she be reported somewhere? But who to? Last I heard, there was no such body as the Nasty Words Police. And anyway, that would mean breaking confidences held by all those people who’d come to me to tell me what was being said.
Could I try talking to her again? Well, I’d already tried that one and, anyway, though it bothered me that my friends were being hurt, it wasn’t really my business to go wading in.
I ran through all kinds of scenarios in my head and none of them entirely worked.
And then it hit me. This stuff was only really needling me so badly because, on some level, I still cared about the person doing the badmouthing. I was still holding onto some vain hope that she might change, might even confide in me or let me help put things right.
Wow again! Who died and made me God?
What was that about leopards and spots? No matter what was going on in this lady’s life, it wasn’t up to me to make it better and it wasn’t up to me to help her change.
We’re bombarded by all these messages about the power of change, pretty much 24/7, but what if someone doesn’t actually want to change? That’s totally cool, isn’t it? What about free will?
There does come a point where, no matter how finely tuned our compassion sensor, if someone really doesn’t want ‘help’ it’s not our job to give it. And what if?… What if they don’t believe they actually need ‘help’ in the first place? We’re all tuned into this idea that hurt people hurt others and, though that may be true, who are we to insist that’s always the case? What if this really was simply a value set that felt utterly alien to me?
Finally, as yet another message arrived from someone who’d been hurt by this person and wondered if I could help because they’d seen the same thing happen to me, it hit me right between the eyes: MY JOB HERE WAS, ACTUALLY, TO QUIT.
Could I quit caring? No – I don’t have that kind of ‘off’ button, but I absolutely could quit looking for that reason and just remember the importance of living in the moment.
I could quit wondering what I’d ever done to deserve her wrath and just get on with living my life to the best of my ability.
I could quit feeling anxious about some of the slurs she’d sent out there and remember that, in fact, nobody seemed to be taking her sour grapes seriously anyway.
I could quit knitting together all the threads and attempting to create a nice, neat tapestry, full of all the answers.
I could quit concentrating on the negativity and, instead, focus on the friends who actually were asking for help and work on picking them up instead.
I could also work on picking myself up; on acknowledging that part of me that was still sore and healing that. Indulgent? Maybe. Physician heal thyself and all that jazz though.
And so, I chose.
I chose to stop wasting my energy on people and scenarios I couldn’t fix and, instead, to focus on the good stuff – and on lending my energy to positive purposes that I could positively impact.
So, I quit.
I quit wasting my time on other people’s nonsense. I quit focusing on the wrong things. I quit depleting myself needlessly.
I said ‘YES’ to life. I said ‘YES’ to optimism. And I said ‘YES’ to this very important life lesson… the one that teaches us that sometimes, just sometimes, things are out of our control, but that flowers will still be growing in the meadows regardless.
Until next time,