I hope your week is off to a good start. And your year, since the year is still young and just beginning. Mine has been a slice of life so far, some good stuff, and not so good stuff. Last year ended on a mixed note too, an anonymous death threat, which was unpleasant, and the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had, spent with my kids, which was truly wonderful. And on New Year’s Day, I got the news that I am going to be given the Legion of Honor award in France (it’s being ‘knighted’ with a beautiful medal), which is a Big Deal, and a great honor. There have been a few minor bumps since the new year started, some hurt feelings occasionally, and the local SF press ran a series of nasty articles about me, complaining that I have a high hedge around my house there, and making nasty personal comments about me. I guess they think that sells papers, but it wasn’t true or nice, and being human it hurt my feelings. Over the years, I have noticed that sometimes when good things happen to us (a new man, a marriage or new romance, a new baby, or wonderful new job), it doesn’t always inspire delight in others, but often inspires jealousy. Jealousy is something to be careful of in life. It’s disappointing and upsetting when it’s focused on you, and a good thing to try to avoid!!!
Thinking about all that today, I was reminded of one of my own failings, or character flaws. I take things personally. It’s so easy for people to say, “It’s not personal, but…..” which then becomes a license to say something really awful to you that decks you and hits you right in the gut. Or “it’s not personal, it’s business” when you get fired or don’t get the raise or opportunity you know you deserve. Or sometimes even a friend can do something thoughtless, and even if not meant that way, it seems so personal. And I have a tendency to take things personally. As a mother, an employer, and even as a woman, it’s easy to get blamed for things unfairly. And all my life, when people have done or said something unkind to me, I take it personally—–without thinking that maybe it has nothing to do with me, that that person may just be limited and not have much to give, or that something else is going on in their life. Without looking any further, I get my feelings hurt. It’s something I still work on, to broaden my vision and realize that maybe it isn’t personal at all. But it sure feels like it at times. And hate mail, death threats, and some of the less pleasant things that come with fame aren’t personal either. They are just the expressions of some crazy who doesn’t even know you. But at times, it all FEELS personal. Especially when attacks or disappointments come from people you know, or love. But even then, it may not be personal at all.
Being shy, I often don’t express it when people hurt my feelings, but just sit with it and let it bother me, in silence. And recently, I had an interesting experience. I went to a dinner party where I knew that 4 of the guests were people who had hurt my feelings, and I had taken it very personally. So out of 12 people at the table, there were 4 people there I didn’t want to sit next to, and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to. And then, on the way there, I realized how silly that was. From taking things personally, I didn’t want to sit next to one third of the guests (or even be there), and I figured that if I kept taking things personally (and not speaking up about it at the time to resolve it), pretty soon, I wouldn’t want to sit next to anyone, and would have to sit at a separate table alone. So I tried to adjust my attitude about it, and had a nice time anyway (and sat next to one of them of course!! And one of the four I was hoping to avoid was rude to me again. He probably just has bad manners and it’s not about me, or doesn’t like me, which is possible too). But it was a good illustration that by taking things too personally, we can start to shrink our world.
I came across a saying today that I thought was very apt on the subject, by Lewis Smedes, a theologian: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you”. So I guess for me, it’s time to at least try not to take things personally, and forgive those who have hurt my feelings. That ought to keep me busy for a while…..and it’s a nice goal to have, with a sense of freedom if you don’t take things personally. That sounds good to me. Have a great week!!!