Monday, January 16, 2006

Intemperate Rant

Locked into combat with the concept of “nice.” With the concept of “kindness.”

What is the correct response to that nice, sensitive, vulnerable person sitting opposite me, drinking ink-bitter restaurant coffee and pouring out the initimate details of their personal problems? (Again? Is this happening again? Can I go home now?)

Two of me respond.

Person One’s automatic first reaction is, What can I do to help? Person One, as an astrologer friend aptly said, “will hand over her heart on a plate and then be surprised when somebody eats it.” Person One is identified as me upon occasion and the adjective “kind” comes into play. Erroneously and to my eternal horror.

We, my various personalities and me, are sitting in this cheesy restaurant, by the way, with Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is a nice person, but he needs to consume me. He will call at midnight with another tale of woe, and he will arrive, hang-dog and sad-eyed to ask me to lunch. Lunch will be his problems with a side order of anguish. Vlad has no intention of seeking actual help or changing his behavior. Vlad is in a bad marriage he won’t leave, working a job he hates, suffocated by a mother who is crippling him, his children are on the Ten Most Wanted List and he has a crippling psychological condition that Prozac can’t touch. He is an artist, really, and suffers.

Person Two is aware that Vlad is in the room. Her system is ringing five alarms and she’s poking and prodding at Person One’s solar plexus to make herself heard. As Person One is misting over with empathy, Person Two is shrieking, “Trap, Trap, Trap! Bail out now! Don’t….” just as…

Person One says, “Call me anytime. No. Really. Call if you need to talk. Come over.”

Person Two flails in helpless fury. You dumb f-ck! she screams, Who died and made you Joan of Arc?

And what is this “kindness” other than a whoosy, weak desire to be The Nice One. To be the one who fixes it all and makes it right? A Good Person.

And what does it accomplish? Vlad goes on sucking energy from anyone who will hand it over. He – or she – will keep cycling through the same self-defeating, self-abusive patterns over and over again because…well, it works, doesn’t it? It’s easier to be a victim than change. It’s easier to be the wronged one than to stand up on our hind legs and accept that, much of the time, we make decisions that have consequences.

That bears repeating.

We make decisions. And the decisions have consequences.

And much as kindness is a virtue, it cannot even touch the ability to look squarely at the decisions we’ve made (especially the ones that make us look bad) – and accept that these have had outcomes.

And that’s the sin. It’s not about blame or unworthiness or looking bad. Everyone screws up. I know this from vast personal experience and a lifetime of screwing up. Big deal.

The sin is not having the courage to make a more life-affirming decision.

(She scribbles a note to her friends, "This is not about you. Then she climbs down from her soap box and pigeons flutter down to reclaim the square.)