I’ve had some thoughts percolating in my head for a few weeks. I knew it was only a matter of time before my thoughts poured out my fingertips. It’s inevitable for me.
Before I dig in, I need to say something. I need a disclaimer in italics, I guess. I’m about to get some stuff off my chest. I want to talk about people who are mean. I was hashing this subject matter over with Scott. We talked about how on any given day, our paths could cross with people experiencing depression, grief or despair. On any given day, we, ourselves, could be experiencing depression, grief or despair. We ALL have bad days. People having bad days are NOT mean. Right? Agreed?
The trouble with talking about mean people, is that people who aren’t mean might be tempted to to worry that they ARE mean. They are not.
Here’s a guideline for you that I pulled out of one of my “How to Pretend You’re a Psychiatrist in your Blog” books. (Or, out of my butt. You be the judge.). I can assure you, if you’re the real deal kind of mean person, you’re not worried about it. If you’re legit mean, being mean doesn’t worry you. Being mean makes you proud. Mean folks wear their, “I don’t take no crap from no one” badge proudly.
I feel pretty sure that authentic mean people wouldn’t find my blog interesting. This thing is pretty soft.
This blog post you’re reading is designed to help us sort things out. It’s designed to help us see things clearly, and to help us figure out what to do about people who are mean. It’s also a bit of therapy for me. Cause you KNOW how I like to talk it out; you’re sure good to listen. Let’s continue…
I was remembering one of my favorite movies, “Say Anything”. I like that movie for a lot of reasons. One line in the movie is fairly obscure; most people probably don’t remember this line was said.
In the movie, John Cusack is a high school kid. He lives with his sister who is a single, hard working mom. These two are siblings in real life too. That’s unrelated trivia, but interesting. Don’t you think?
John Cusack’s older sister is probably overwhelmed, anxious, depressed and a bunch of other things that we become when life craps on us. So, let’s just give her that. The other thing John Cusack’s sister is is not nice. There are more colorful words to describe big sister than “not nice”, but I hate to offend. Please, use your imagination.
The older sister never has anything positive to say to her little brother. Little brother can always expect big sister to be short, and to respond with sarcasm. This kind of thing goes on between the siblings for a few scenes. Then, little brother finally addresses the situation. He uses that line I’ve remembered for the rest of my life. Little brother says, “Why can’t you just decide to be in a good mood, and then be in a good mood?”
When I watched this movie for the first time, I wanted to stand up and cheer when little brother put my thoughts into words so perfectly. I was a teenager then. My life was untouched by depression, anxiety disorders, or any significant trauma. I was completely naive. I was a pretty happy young person person; I thought the whole world, and everyone in it was just grand. I thought little brother had just solved everyone’s problems.
At 43 years, I do know about, or have experienced, depression, anxiety disorders and trauma. I’m suitably jaded.
But, still, “Why CAN’T you just decide?”
Yep. Still on board with you, little brother.
I have been thinking about when people have to walk on egg shells. You know what I mean? You know how you have to be super careful to say and do all the right things around certain people? These egg shell people are unpredictable. They’re so easily offended. Keeping egg shell people happy requires a ton of energy.
I’ve also been thinking this deep thought: screw eggshells.
I mean it. Screw them. I think we should stop walking on them. And, everyone should just calm the crap down.
I think you need to realize something. Egg shell people are just mean. I think we should stop fussing over egg shell people, and start having a good time. That’s what I think.
In, “Say Anything”, the big sister comes to her senses. Big sister is wore down, drug out and overwrought. But, she loves her brother. She heard him, and she takes his advice. She decides to change her response and her words. Then the love flows. Aww. She’s not mean at all.
What if life was always that easy? Sometimes it is. Most the time, not.
In real life, that scene would probably go down differently. Little brother would tell big sister to stop being so mean. Big sister would then punch little brother in the face, and say, “You want mean? I’ll give you mean.”
Then, little brother would apologize. And, later, he would go back for second helpings. The next time though, he’d be more careful. The next time, he’d be sure to try not to say anything to set his sister off. After all, she suffers from anxiety, depression and she’s had a rough go. Little brother knows he should always remember what big sister’s been through, and all the stress she’s under. That’s why she’s so mean.
From where I stand in my life right now, here is my advice to little brother: Pull the shades, bro. Your sister is mean.
I’ve had little experience with mean people in my life. I know I’m fortunate. I do not know any mean people intimately. The only down side to this is that I cannot be a credible source on the inner workings of a mean person’s mind. My limited exposure to meanness has only taught me this: stop wasting your time trying to figure it out. You can’t.
I know YOU are not mean. I know it. Stop worrying. I’m not talking about you. All of us have bad days. We all say things we regret. I know I have a long list of words I’d like to retract in my lifetime.
I think mean people have (at least) two common traits:
- Broken relationships. A lot of them. A heap of friends and family a mean person no longer speaks to, because, you know, the mean person won’t be mistreated. And everyone (I mean, EVERYONE) eventually tries to mistreat a mean person. Mean people won’t have it. Not for a second. Mean people eliminate offenders from their lives with no regrets. Anyone left standing is prepared to do what it takes to keep mean person from getting upset. It’s a small group.
- Being easily offended. Oh for crap’s sake. This one makes me crazy. Would you stop with the being offended stuff? I have come to the conclusion that few things bother me more than folks who are always offended. Don’t be so freakin’ fragile, man. It’s self indulgent.
Have you ever gotten an email, or a phone call from someone apologizing for something they said that they think may have offended you? I have. I just think those people are so precious. Almost every single time this has happened, I can honestly tell this person I was NOT offended. In fact, most of the time, I do not even remember the conversation where this “offense” occurred.
I can remember one time about 8 years ago. Eddie was super sick; I did not have my full mental strength. A good friend said something that actually DID hurt my feelings. You’d have to put me under hypnosis to get me to remember WHAT she said. I have no idea. I just remember an offense happened.
My hurt feelings would not have stopped me from hanging out with my friend, for the record. There is a good chance if that offense kept bugging me, I would have eventually told my friend what was in my head. It never came to that.
My friend’s a sensitive gal. She called me to say that she was thinking about our conversation. She said she was very sorry, because she felt like what she said was insensitive.
I said, “Too late. You’ve got one chance with me, woman. You blew it.” Then, I circled her name on my list of people to ostracize and/or murder at a later date.
Naw! I’m kiddin’ ya. The way I figure it, murder is just to be used in extreme circumstances. You know, like a last resort.
Apology accepted, you sweet, humble and lovely human. My friend is not mean. I am not mean. That’s how not mean people do business.
I’ve sent plenty of apology emails myself. In fact, just this week I sent an email to Olivia’s volleyball coach. I got caught in a conversation at the end of her “beginning of the year” talk. I didn’t even hear her last line or two. I was rude. I was sorry. I’m always anxious to fess up and apologize when I do people wrong. Once I apologize, I don’t worry about it much. I mentally check it off my list.
I used to keep worrying and worrying, until harmony was restored. I stopped doing that. It took some practice. I’m pretty good at it now.
Now, I know that I’m only responsible for the stuff that is within my control. I have no business spending energy on any of the rest of it. Whew. What a relief to be getting older, and learning stuff that makes life easier.
That’s it. That’s all I got to help you with mean people. Do what you can, and then pull the shades on that. Your apologies and efforts will never be enough. Find a way to extricate yourself physically and/or emotionally. Who knows? Maybe God will step in and make a miracle happen. That’s what it will take, because you’re not winning that battle on your own, my friend. It’ll take you down.
I bet you didn’t know that I’m an artist. It’s true. I’ve got skills. We went to ArtSpot this past weekend for my Mom’s birthday. The deal with that is that no matter how much you suck at art, you’re supposed to come out with a painting that isn’t half bad.
My sister, Heidi, and I were jackin’ around like the old days. I felt like I had better technique, and seemed a bit more like a serious artist, but she said the same about herself. Take a look, if you want. Feel free to tell my sister that she just doesn’t have that secret something that I have. It’s hard to put your finger on it, really.
Of course it’s not her fault. I’m gifted, and I’m humble enough to know that isn’t anything I did on my own. My kind of talent comes from above.
I made this picture:
I thought it might be going a good direction. When I finished it, I realized it was actually garbage (true artists are never satisfied). So, I wrote on it.
My Mom is good at painting in real life. She was the teacher’s pet, and made the rest of us look real bad. Sounds like the perfect birthday gift to me.