You Can’t Drink Poison Then Wonder Why You’re Sick

“Don’t say: ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

Yesterday was a bad day.

I don’t say that often. I have lazy days, frustrating days, long days, but rarely do I have plain bad days.

Since becoming Catholic in 2011, I’ve worked hard to meet adversity and meanness with charity and compassion. I work hard to control my tongue, and even more control my fingers on the keyboard when on the internet. It’s easy to sit in front of a screen and treat it as a line of demarcation between reality and fiction. When arguing with someone online, it’s easy to forget that there is an actual living, breathing, hurting, loved individual on the other end, no matter how intolerable they are to us personally.

Yesterday, I was not charitable. I did not meet the person with whom I was fighting (someone I once knew personally and intimately) with compassion. Anytime we interact there is tension. Both of us want to get at the other, even when we both claim that we don’t. I chalk it up to unresolved issues that 1. we had when we were dating, and 2. that we have accumulated over the years and not talked through because, well, neither of us really wants to listen.

You could say, “just cut them off, stop talking to them,” but the situation is a bit more complicated. There’s a third-party involved, and that relationship cannot be severed, nor can this party be thrown in the middle of our issues. The one I was fighting with is a person I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, and he is one of the only people in the world towards whom I feel this amount of animosity.

I lost my cool. Not once, but twice. I failed the first incident by responding to what I knew was him baiting me into fighting. I fell for it. I fell into it. I failed the second time by, while claiming that I was done doing this with him, that I was going to try and do better by not stooping to the levels and language that I did, I stooped again. I trash-talked, I made petty (albeit true) comments in a public forum.

I’m not going to try and excuse my behavior. I’m a grown woman and I should know how to act, even and especially on the internet. I failed to set the example that when someone hands you poison, you don’t have to drink it. And drink it I did. Then I proceeded to moan about being sick.

My relationship with this individual was toxic when we were together, and ten years later, it’s still toxic. We both eat at each other, then we both turn around and act like what the other says and does doesn’t bother us. We’re both… excuse me if you will… full of crap. If neither of us cared about the other (in a broad, platonic sense), we wouldn’t nip at each other the way that we do. He wouldn’t do his best to show me how smart and wise and “enlightened” he is, and I wouldn’t waste my time trying to show him that he may be those things but he doesn’t know the first thing about being a father.

Now, this isn’t to say that he on his own is a toxic person. He says that he’s come a long way from who he was when we dated, and maybe he is. I don’t know because all I see is what he posts on Facebook, and what he tells me. And while I tell him that I’m not the same person I used to be, I always revert back to the outrageous, defensiveness 17-year-old I once was. I don’t show him a difference.

He hands me poison, and I drink it.

Two things shook me out of my tirade yesterday: one, a good friend and family member pointing out that I was being hypocritical by saying I didn’t want to stoop anymore, then doing so anyways when I had the chance to prove I’m not that person now; two, my mom said to me, “I hate seeing you like this. You have done SO WELL over the past few years when you weren’t speaking to him and now you’re right back to where you were before, and that’s not you.”

Thank God for people who are willing to set me straight even when it hurts. And I mean that with the utmost sincerity. I was making an absolute ass of myself and I’m sure it got a good “ha-ha” from his end, which of course cripples my pride. But that’s exactly what I need and needed. I need a blow to the pride. I need to remember that this person who keeps goading me into these behaviors has no power if I don’t give it to him. He may goad, but I’m the one who has control over my actions and reactions. I need to remember that he’s a person with aches and pains and past and present hurts just like me. I need to remember that even though he doesn’t claim religion or faith in God, he’s still made in the image and likeness of God. He’s broken, just like me, and we both have a Father who wants to make us better, who hates to see us bicker and hurt each other the way we do.

Right now, I honestly don’t want to be kind to this person. I don’t want to show him an ounce of compassion because I personally don’t think he deserves it. He won’t take it anyways. He’ll see it either as a ploy or a weakness, and he’ll exploit it either way because that’s just how this works. But it’s not really about what think, is it?

I’m done drinking the poison. I’m done letting him get rash reactions from me. I’m done speaking to him unless it involves the third party. Does that mean I’m going to kowtow and bend a knee? Absolutely not. I have the third party to protect, and even if it makes me look like the bad guy, I will never apologize for doing what I deem is in the best interest of said third party.

Mr. Wise and Enlightened can have the last word. He can prove how much smarter and wiser and all-around just a better person he is than me, and I’ll take it. I’ll take humility (and being humiliated) over pride and acting the way that I did yesterday.

Sometimes the suffering that we experience in life is completely self-inflicted, but we can especially in these moments allow God to work through others and show us where we’re lacking, and how we can do better, both for ourselves and those around us. I take full blame for yesterday, from the initial argument to the way it blew up on social media. I took a huge dose of humility, and it’s been much like a panacea to me. It’s been an opportunity for the Lord to remind me that at the core of it, I know nothing of patience, charity, and humility as it applies to temperance.

“Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.” – Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Why I Don’t Remember Your Name – An Open Letter

Dear person whose name I can’t remember,

I watched you approaching from up the aisle. For a moment I battled between feigning sudden interest in the varieties of salad dressing, or matching your gaze and forcing myself into an awkward exchange.

You smile, I smile. You stop your basket next to mine, and my mind automatically shifts to panic mode as it often does in social encounters, especially ones that are unexpected. You see, I’m panicking because I don’t know your name. I know that you’ve given it to me. I know that I’ve heard it uttered by others on several occasions, but I just can’t peg the correct series of letters, the correct syllables, to your face.

But before you get upset by this fact, as if you are too unimportant to be embedded well in my memory-recall, I want to explain something to you.

You see, I don’t remember people by their names. For some reason, my brain has just never been hard-wired to remember names very well. It has, however, been hard-wired to remember other things; things that help me know exactly who you are.

I remember who you are by that one dimple you have on the left side of your face. I remember who you are by the sound of your voice, the way you lilt your consonants, or by the fact that your questions never really sound like questions. I remember who you are by the gestures you make when you speak; more choppy and forceful than fluid and carefree. I know you because of the silver pendant you always wear, or that green sweater that is so awful it’s adorable. I know you by the gray starburst in your blue eyes, the cluster of freckles on your wrist that have bled together and look suspiciously like the Apple icon.

You pour barely a teaspoon of creamer into your coffee.You choose raspberry vinaigrette over ranch dressing. You leave your napkin bundled up beside your plate instead of placing it in your lap. You eat your grapes with your fingers instead of with a fork.

You get this smirk on your face when someone is talking to you, and I can always tell that it’s an uncontrolled reaction because of the worry that flashes behind your eyes when you realize you’re doing it (I have that same fear that someone will misconstrue our expressions as lack of interest, or something negative). I see that flicker of fear when you laugh too loudly, the same flicker of emotion when you say something you feel is very witty but aren’t sure how others will react.

I remember you by the sights, sounds, and smells happening when I’m around you. And so when I see you, I see these little things–seemingly insignificant things–about you. When I look at you, it’s not your name that bounces around my head like a neon flashing light, or like sifting through a Rolodex until your name appears. When I look at you, I remember the way the room smelled like rosemary chicken and lavender; I remember that I was cold and you offered to go get your sweater from your car for me; I remember the sound your foot made as it tapped against the ground.

So, before I watch the disappointment bleed across your face once you realize that I don’t remember you name, please understand it’s because I remember you in so many other ways.

Sincerely,

That lady who can’t remember your name but remembers that you prefer dogs to cats