Monday, June 02, 2008

Deflating balloons

A friend called on Saturday and said she was furious because someone was talking about her behind her back. She detailed all the things that were said and I started laughing. She got angry with me. "Why are you so upset?" I asked her. "None of it's true. It's so far off the mark the person must be talking about someone else or just blowing smoke."

"You're right." She laughed. "I didn't see it like that. All I saw was someone being nasty and mean."

"If it isn't true, don't sweat it." We both laughed at how ridiculous most of what was said was. "That person should write fantasy. They have a great imagination."

I've been there. Someone attacks and the immediate reaction is defense and counter attack. It's a waste of energy and time, especially when the claims are specious. Even if what someone says hits in the general vicinity of the target it's not worth fighting about. It's a lot like someone attacking physically. If someone throws a punch or gets a running head start to tackle you, it's much simpler to side step and pull them on through, adding their weight to their trip. Falling on your face on the cold hard ground isn't much fun and it tends to take the wind out of one's sails, not to mention scraping the hands raw and bloodying the nose or possibly banging some sense into a rock hard skull; striking cement or rocks have a tendency to do that. And it messes up the clothes something awful. Grass and blood stains are nearly impossible to clean.

I'm a pacifist and words are my weapons of choice, although I know how to throw a dagger and wield a sword when the occasion warrants. I'm also a very good shot with rifle and handgun and I hit the center of the target with bow and arrow 99/100 times, but for me those are hobbies and pastimes and not something I do in the usual course of human interaction because someone could get hurt, obviously not me, but someone else. I have yet to meet the person who is worth one second of my life behind bars or even one penny of my hard earned money.

When my friends or family complain about someone at work or around town that irks them or about whom they spend most of the time griping and complaining I always ask the same thing: How does it affect you? If someone is goofing around and not doing their work, it's their problem. If someone is lying and gossiping about you or someone else, maybe they have no life of their own and need to borrow yours to make them feel better. They're small and bitter people not worthy of the time and effort expended by getting angry and upset. Consider the source. If someone goes out of their way to bug you, ignore them; they will go away. Mayflies do eventually die. If someone is always complaining about their work, spouse, health, pain, or whatever and they don't want help, walk away. Fights need a minimum of two people to really work -- shadow boxing does not count.

I recently read something about water off a duck's back and that's what cruelty and gossip and taunts and someone else's garbage needs to be -- like water off a duck's back. Keep your clothes clean by side stepping and ignoring someone else's attempts to draw you into a fight. It's not necessary to have the last word, unless it's goodbye. No one can affect you adversely if you don't let them. So what if they complain about their aches and pains? You don't know whether or not they are in pain and saying they don't know either is presumptuous. Some people need to gripe like the rest of us need air, food and water. They aren't happy unless they're making someone else unhappy or stirring up trouble, so why not let them have the trouble all to themselves? Walk away. It's not always easy to do, but it does get easier with practice and it certainly boosts the immune system, clears out the airways, keeps the eyes moist and the muscles toned when you laugh at them.

As Professor Lupin taught the young witches and wizards of Harry Potter's Defense Against the Dark Arts class, "Riddikulus!"

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