If it sounds like I’m complaining all the time, I apologize, but writing to you gives me the chance to talk about the things I care about, that hurt me, or I wish for, or I’ve learned, (or wish I hadn’t). None of us are exempt from life’s lessons, and talking about them somehow puts them into sharper focus and perspective. And basically, we’re all in the same boat, facing the same problems, in one form or another. Success, fame, age, or even wisdom and experience are not always a shield or a guarantee against making mistakes. I make plenty of them—–we all do—-and sometimes it helps to share those moments of truth or ephiphanies with others. And then you think, “duh” (as my children would say), how could I have been so stupid. When you say it out loud, it’s so obvious. But it’s not always obvious when you’re going through it, to any of us.
I am cursed (and I am beginning to think it’s a curse as well as a blessing) with basic optimism, and a profund faith and belief in people. We know that hasn’t always turned out right. I’m divorced, like everyone else I’ve been disappointed, most of you know that I was embezzled and discovered it in the last couple of years, so I’m no smarter than anyone else, and possibly less so. But part of my basic make up is that profund faith I have in people that they are basically decent, that they will behave better next time, that if you treat them fairly and honestly, they will do the same to you. I know it’s naive, but I hate the thought of being suspicious of everyone. Although, let’s be real, I would not re-hire the person who embezzled from me. I may be optimistic, but I’m not totally stupid!!!
Whenever people ask me for quote that I’m particularly fond of, I always think of the quote from Anne Frank, that defines how I feel about life and people: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart.” I love that, and also the quote from Albert Einstein that says “The only life worth living is a life lived in service to others”. Both of those are my favorite quotes.
Having said that, there is also a very worthwhile saying in 12 Step Groups (like AA, NA, Coda, and all of those groups that are based on the 12 step model, which I have always been impressed by). It says that “Doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” And I will admit to you that in my life, I have been guilty of that particular kind of insanity at times. And I have learned that people’s behaviour toward you in the past is the best predictor of how they will continue to behave and treat you in the future, and who they are. Most people dont’ change, even if we think they should or wish they would. But sadly, if they have treated you badly, they are liable to do it again, possibly worse next time, if you give them that opportunity. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering that, or believing it. Because admitting it means that they really meant to treat you badly, it wasn’t an accident, or an oversight, or a mistake, they actually meant to do whatever they did, no matter what the consequences to you. That’s when my optimism and faith in people can be a curse, because I have a hard time believing that some people are as rotten or nasty or ill intentioned as they seemed to be (not all people, just some people occasionally), and really meant to hurt me. You mean it wasn’t a mistake? No. They weren,t just confused? No. Some people just aren’t nice. Sad reality, but the truth. And I need to remind myself of that at times.
This moment of philosophy came up because a once very dear friend was very dishonest with me about ten years ago, and really upset me badly and hurt my feelings. It was a shocking blow at the time, and impacted our friendship forever. It has never been quite the same since, or even close. Before that, we were like family, since then, we have been cautious (on my part) and distant friends. And a few months ago, that same person began trying to be closer again, showed all the appealing traits that made me trust them and love them a long time ago. And I decided that I had been too harsh in my judgements, told myself not to be so unforgiving, and give them another chance. I did. And within three months, that same person was dishonest with me, manipulated me shamelessly and disappointed me again. I can’t blame the other person this time, but only myself, for being trusting and believing that things (and that person) had changed. I thought perhaps time had healed them, or taught them something. Apparently nothing. The same dishonest person that spoiled our friendship ten years ago has just done the same thing. Only this time I don’t really care, I didnt have as much invested in the friendship, and I am disappointed but not injured. But what a lesson and reminder it has been, that in fact people’s previous bad behaviour really is a an indicator of what you can expect from them in future. I get it. And I won’t be fooled again.
It really is too bad. It would be nice to think that people can do it better next time, want to be more honest, and demonstrate something better next time after they screw up. But some people are just never going to change, or even improve. And with all due respect to Anne Frank, I too believe that, in spite of everything, people are truly good at heart…..some people….not all people, and some people have adequately demonstrated that they dont deserve my love, friendship or trust. It’s a hard lesson, particularly for someone who is basically optimistic (and always thinks things will be better next time), and one who belives in the decency of the human race. But unless we want to get hurt again and again, sometimes we have to learn the lesson, and swallow the bitter pill that not all people are good people, and some have shown us just what kind of inferior treatment we can expect from them. Lesson learned. It makes us sadder and wiser, but once they’ve shown us who they are, if they’re not good people, we have no choice but to protect ourselves. I had a wake up call and reminder this time. And this time, I will quietly put that friendship in a drawer, with old souvenirs and past memories, and move on. I won’t be trusting that person again. Maybe you’ve had an experience like that too. Some people just disappoint us every time. We can’t teach them, or show them, or explain it or change them, we just have to acknowledge what we can expect from them, and move on. So……moving on…….and hopefully the next experience will be better!!! There is nothing more precious than a faithful friend whom you can rely on and trust, and nothing worse than a bad one who is not worthy of your friendship. Some people just aren’t. It’s a reality of life. Lesson learned.