Not so much a blast from the past but a little breeze brushed me recently, reminding me of both someone many years ago and someone in the last decade who saw me in the worst light possible. That got me to thinking how, in all our lives, there are those who will see all our words and deeds as malicious, greedy or just plain stupid, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Growing up, I had such a person in my life. Displaced money meant I stole it. Tardiness was part of my Machiavellian plan for world dominance. Speaking up for myself was the devil’s sign for unmitigated selfishness. Being fairly young, I had no way to reframe these messages as being about another person’s self-hatred or other issues, so I tended to internalize the attacks. Thank heavens for great witnesses and a lot of therapy.
Over the last decade, I had a similar challenge, which is now fading out of my life. While I tend to harbor the please-love-me dog who will easily expose her belly and wag her tail, at least now I have ways to work with such situations. The perspective that comes with age tells me what we all know: people who attack others in such ways often are playing out their own issues, you can’t please everyone, and you can’t control what others think of you. Cultivating kindness toward ourselves and curiosity about what’s happenings also helps.
At the same time, this is one of those life lessons that has a habit of parking itself in my driveway every so often, and all I can do is remember to say, “I remember you,” and move on. It’s also good to invoke that old Irish blessings: “May those who love us love us. Those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts, and if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, so we’ll know them by their limping.”