Late at night is when you ponder and reflect on your relationships and your place in them.
It’s inevitable. Late at night, usually in the wee hours when you are supposed to be catching up on your sleep, is when the gears start turning. I’d love to say that it’s when the creative ideas flow, but sadly, it’s sometimes when my brain wants to process all the things that create fear, discord, and worry. Thankfully, I am a good sleeper, so those late night jolts are seldom, but when I’m under more stress, they poke their nosy selves through the curves of my brain, niggling their way into the forefront of my consciousness.
Often, these are the times when I reflect on the relationships in my life. More specifically, the focus is on the relationships that have not been healthy. It’s tricky – these relationships were important, meaningful, and at one time, mutually satisfying. Or, they were maintained through family ties. For reasons that I can’t always clearly define, the connection disintegrated. Whatever the reason (or reasons), I have a choice: dig in and pursue the loss, or let it go and let time and distance do their thing.
I am generally not the type of person to push others to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing. If something about our relationship failed, and it couldn’t be rectified right away, I pull back. The introverted part of me creates a kind of cocoon, small and protective, and prevents me from reaching out further. I’m not sure if it’s a flaw or a failsafe, but either way, I’m not about to torture myself by pushing into someone else’s space who doesn’t want me there.
There is a different kind of torture though, that inserts itself during the quiet moments. I start to wonder what I did, what they did, how connections were made and lost, and how those relationships (or loss of them) don’t feel good now. The idea of trying to repair those connections also doesn’t feel particularly good, which leads to questions of “Was I a good friend/family member?” “Did I live up to my responsibilities or did I let someone down?” It is rumination at its core, those uncomfortable and disturbing thoughts that run on repeat. It is not productive, because nothing come of it – no solutions, no salves – but they circulate nonetheless, when I least expect the intrusion.
When I start to notice these thoughts creep in and multiply, I try to write. It’s a way of acknowledging the thoughts, accepting they are there, and trying to insert thoughts that are more productive. I try to think about what makes me a good friend/family member and reflect on the relationships that are mutually maintained, even when time and distance keep interfering. The following is the product of a long series of ruminations over time.
When you are a good person, it is hard to understand when others treat you poorly. When they ignore, condescend, malign, edge you out, you wonder what calculation you missed, what step you didn’t take.
When you are a good person, and you mind and gauge and measure how others perceive your intentions, actions, reactions, it can weigh on you, like a stone on your chest.
When you are a good person, you scrutinize your efforts. You question how your actions will go over, how your expressions will be received, whether there is too much or too little expense of yourself.
Will others misinterpret your intentions? Will they twist your words in their mind into a prickly knot that cannot be unraveled? Will they turn your thoughts against you and infect the purity of your resolve?
A good person’s mantra is “Do no harm.” But where is the balance between thinking you are doing good and not knowing the real impact that deed may have on others? Can a good person really find that balance and still act? Is it a good person’s responsibility to know every possibility?
Is it true that no deed goes unpunished? If so, why? What motivation does the punisher have to douse the flame of passion or benevolence or kindness? If not, how has history tried to prove otherwise?
A good person…
- is patient and kind.
- models how they want to be treated.
- takes responsibility for mistakes and mis-steps.
- lends a hand to others in need.
- listens and respects.
- is aware that others have their own story.
A good person…
- isn’t responsible for the misfortune of others.
- can’t fix the broken-ness of others.
- shouldn’t change who they are to accommodate the pain others feel.
- must set boundaries to protect themselves.
Even when these things are understood, a good person still feels the sting that the slings and arrows that the broken hearts, twisted minds, warped sensibilities dole out.
The challenge: staying true to your good nature; preservation of our integrity, reinforcement of our boundaries, and the continuance of fighting the good fight, despite the attempts at obfuscation and hostility that linger around us. We must accept that these impediments exist and the fight for dignity and equity are still necessary. We must reinforce the fact that patience and kindness is a requirement of coexistence.
The hardest part of letting go of something that once was enjoyable, satisfying, or important, is wondering what part you played in that loss. It makes you question the part of you that you value the most: your good intentions and the ability to follow through on them. Through the myriad questions that circulate deep in the night, this fact remains: I am committed to being a good person, no matter what the journey of other people presents. If we cross paths again, I will apply my good sensibilities, which includes boundaries, to protect the only heart I have.