As I walked into the cafeteria that warm October day in 1969, I noticed my Mercy High School besties huddled at a corner table. There was nothing unusual about this scene, for this is where we Juniors congregated every day. Then, suddenly, I froze. By the sheepish grins on their faces as they quickly turned away, I sensed the topic of conversation was me.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked the group, slowly approaching.
Steering me to another table to talk one brave girl began, “We’ve been discussing your breakup with Pete and how you’re handling everything. Please know it was only out of love, but it’s time you got over it.”
Feeling as if my broken heart had just been dissected into a million pieces, I wanted to say, “Well, I wish you’d love me a little less. After all, we only broke up last week!” Instead, I sat silent.
Let’s talk gossip – that nasty social activity we’ve all done, and I’m no different. Too many times my words have singed someone’s image, only to leave me feeling guilty later. So, why do we do it? We know words can sting, especially those dressed up as love.
Recently, I found myself enjoying another wonderful bitch-fest. The topic: my youngest brother. Sadly, we’ve been estranged for many years, and this separation has hurt our family dynamic. Traveling down that dark rabbit hole with disparaging remarks, I moaned how it was his fault we were no longer a cohesive unit. Things had changed, and I hate when the people I love change too. Just as my blood pressure rose with more blame, I suddenly heard that little voice in my head that constantly tries to save me from myself.
“This has nothing to do with him, but how you’ve allowed the change you see in him affect you.”
Sitting with this thought, my mind traveled to a time long ago when all was good: we had fun, loved one another, and were inseparable. Now, we’re only somebody we used to know.
Thinking back to that day with my girlfriends, I now understand they were critical because my breakup meant our gang was no longer whole. With Pete gone, so too were all his cute friends. It also meant my Suzie Sunshine demeanor was taking an extended vacation, and no one wanted a mopey substitute. Just like with my brother, they wanted the past.
I’d like to think that I’m a bigger person and can control my words. But, sadly, my ego sometimes gets in the way no matter how much I try. When someone elicits an unpleasant emotion in me, I want to blame them for my angst, not the fact that internally I don’t know how to cope. But, going forward, I have a plan.
We each have our own personal journey we must travel. We start one way, but as life happens, it may appear we’ve fallen off track; a track others want us to stay on. But, rather than grumble about the friend or loved one’s behavior, I hope to go to the source of my self-perceived discomfort and see if there’s something I can do to help. Sometimes just showing you care does wonders. But if they need time and space to figure it out, I know the one thing I can do is love them through it.
Perhaps it’s time I gave my brother a call. He may still be distant, but if I can I stop judging him, and the choices he’s made, and just love him through his life challenges, we’ll both be better for it.