I’ve had a certain amount of conflict in my life of late – nothing personal, at least no more than usual when you’re rather greedy in your personal relationships. It’s been in some of those relationships with people you don’t choose, but end up thrown together with.
Sometimes you like each other, sometimes you don’t, but most of the time we tend to behave, it rarely goes beyond not taking lunch together, or not striking up a conversation about the show you watched last night. Once in a while though, you get someone who doesn’t play by the normal rules.
Years ago, I worked with a man who was both almost comical in some of his eccentricities, but genuinely frightening in others. I had genuinely made it known to my friends that if he did lose his mind and murder us all, they should sue, because he had been complained about repeatedly.
Clearly, he didn’t snap, but recent events have reminded me how tiring, and how absorbing, drama can be, in the way the a sponge is absorbent, rather than the way that new hobby is. Conflict is endlessly fascinating, in the way that you have to look at the car in the median after the accident. You can’t look away, even when you want to.
I don’t know, and never have understood, why some people either actively pursue conflict, or have such abysmal people skills that it always seems to work out that you can’t get along with people. Don’t you wonder, do these people genuinely have so little self-knowledge that the fact that “everyone” has it out for them or is hard to work with, particularly when those very people seem to get long with others never makes them consider that there is, in fact, one common denominator.
We encourage and enable them, of course. They lie to our faces, and we’re polite back. They tell half-truths or less, create hurdles and obstacles, and still, the next time they offer a hand, even when we’re pretty sure there’s a joy buzzer in it, we still take them up on it. We wouldn’t want to look unfriendly or unhelpful, even though they seem to have no issue with it.
Funny, isn’t it? We’ll stay in an elevator when the creepy guy gets on, because if we walked out, he might think we… think he’s creepy? We’re polite against our own interests.
And then, when it turns out that there WAS a joy buzzer in that hand, and our teeth are now on edge from the unpleasant sensation, we feel compelled, all of us, to let the conflict take up more time. We obsess about it, we discuss it, we call, we text, we drive our closest a little crazy with the most recent saga, the unfairness of it, the inconceivability of their actions, the speculation about how and why and what will happen next.
The one good thing, I think, is those who create the conflict almost always sink themselves without help. They can’t quite let well enough alone. They have a stick, and there’s a wolverine over there in a cage, and he’s probably rabid, so clearly, they MUST stir it up. It is their nature, the same way it’s the nature of the scorpion in the old parable about the frog carrying him across a river.
I wish I new the best way to deal with it. I don’t think there’s ever a one-size -fits-all solution, for nearly anything, really. I do believe a big part of it involves trying to look away, trying to put it aside. To, as our mothers might have advised, mind our own business and let them mind their own.
That goes for social media, too. It’s so tempting to follow that snarky thread where the drama is playing out, to check for updates, to see if there have been those veiled references since, the ones about the people who REALLY know them, or the implausible excuses (and astonishingly poorly thought out, at times), for why they behaved in this way that now needs to be justified.
I’ve done it, you’ve done it, that electronic take on who can sit at our table.
I will tell you one thing I find that does help.
I remind myself that people who like drama rarely have lives I would envy.
I have a very full life, sometimes fuller than I need, but let’s not forget, rest is rust.
I have people who love me, more than one of two, people who would do anything they could if I needed it.
I am surrounded by people who make me laugh, who put up with my admittedly somewhat unique perspective and personality, who spend their free time and more going to hang out with my kinky friends all over the country.
I’ve done things most people never will – some good, some dumb, some I would repeat, some I would not, but isn’t it all about the experience.
So, I am going to work on letting go of drama, and conflict, and I invite you to do the same.
Wallowing in the mud rarely allows anyone to come out as spotlessly as they might like.