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On learning from my clumsy words…

March 26, 2013

I feel most alive when I make choices I can then act on, I feel most alive then when I’m living. The choices I make are unique to my experiences; they are a reflection of my observations, my perspectives. Being raised as a religious person, and being afraid for my safety most of my childhood I do have a “kneejerk” reaction to most situations, a fight or flight response due to prolonged and repeated mental trauma. However, I know that, again by observation, a fight or flight response to most situations will leave a person (me) without open communication, and possibly without friends or a family. I don’t know how better to explain my observation that letting an issue be, rather than run from or attacking it has served to offer me at last a peace of mind I never before dreamed of.

But it is not easy. Indeed at this very moment in my perspective I have someone I am observing near me, someone who lives in the same house as I, who as far as I can tell from my limited experiences, does not like me in the least. And upon reflection I have identified where I may have faltered from his perspective as a caring and freely giving person, which is how I generally view myself.

One morning this past winter, I was helping him shovel snow out of the walkways in an effort to get to know him better. The light conversation was very pleasant, until at one point he left to speak to a neighbor. I could hear the two men talking from where I was across the road, and I was strongly uninterested in what they were talking about. To my mind it sounded like the neighbor was complaining about his life, and the man I live in the same house with, was egging him on basking and wallowing in their shared misery in life. The conversation ended, and my housemate came back. I don’t recall exactly how he brought it up when he started talking to me; probably because I dislike shoveling snow and being out of shape I was having difficulty breathing. But what I remember him saying was, “I know I’d never rent to someone on section 8, their all a bunch of bums who leave cars that don’t work on the lawn…” I would like to point out that I put that in quotes but I doubt that is exactly what he said, but in that moment that is all I got from what he was saying. Now when he finished saying his piece, I remember thinking about what he had said, and being shocked and offended that someone his age, with over 50 years of experience in life, could be so prejudiced against the poor, of which I was one. That is when I think I must have overstepped when I said the following, “Wow that seems like a lot of hate to walk around every day with, it’s quite a burden to dislike so many people.” Now I was speaking from experience, but I didn’t think about how he was going to take that information about my perspective. So he hasn’t spoken to me in over six weeks, not for a lack of me trying to engage him the first three weeks or so of his silence, but all I got back from him were short one word answers. Thus my inference of his prejudice, led to me attacking one of his fears itself without really meaning to. In hindsight I wish my response had been more like, “Oh” or “Ah” being a form of recognition of his statement, without agreeing with his prejudice or attacking it, neutral.

Now I’m asking myself, why would I want to be friends with someone whose opinions offend me? Well, one reason is it would have made my stay in this boarding house more comfortable, but I wouldn’t have learned anything about myself or people in general had I not spoken. However from my perspective, someone, who although unwittingly, facilitated my clearer understanding of the world I live in deserves my respect for their contribution, however small. So out of respect I will leave him alone, and hope from time to time after I leave this place that he has a better opinion of the less fortunate.

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