Everywhere I look, people are fighting. Sometimes that’s a good thing, a fighting for something, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now.
Usually, it’s a negative. We fight against people we’ve made our enemies. Sometimes it feels deserved, like when it’s a school system depriving our child of services. Oftentimes it’s ridiculous, like when we devolve into hours-long flame-fests about politics, as if that’s ever going to change anyone’s minds.
And then, of course, the autism community often fights like a dysfunctional family. Far too much.
The familiar quote with many variations (believed to belong to Ian MacLaren), “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” holds so true. The real battles of life shake the foundations of who we are. Perhaps, that, too, is also why we fight so much. Those soul-rending battles we each personally fight raise the stakes of everything else so high.
But this week I’ve been given perspective in a way I never wanted to learn. You discover the great and terrible battles some others face, and you are humbled. Or you should be. It puts the petty things in your life into perspective. And these kinds of battles are happening all over the place.
It got me to thinking, maybe against my own usual counsel, that perhaps I should just blow off people like those in the store who judge how my kid acts or my parenting skills. Maybe they had crappy parents and bad childhoods where they were held to impossibly high standards. Maybe their hard battle is that they hate who they are.
Perhaps the defensive and unhelpful teacher goes home and feels like she’s a terrible person and a fraud for even pretending to be a professional anything. Maybe when we talk to her, she hears her own parent’s voice. Maybe the school administrator giving us the runaround is avoiding tension because their home was full of violent conflict growing up.
Maybe I’m just completely full of it with all this. That’s always entirely possible.
Does that mean we shouldn’t fight for our children or fight for what is right? Of course not. Does that mean we shouldn’t hold beliefs and advocate for them? Absolutely not.
But could we do so more compassionately? I believe we can. I believe we have to. All the anger does is tear ourselves apart. We could all be more understanding and still be clear about what we want.
But 99% of the time, the essential stuff is not what we are angry about anyway. We get furious about petty crap that doesn’t really matter. We expend so much emotional energy on trivial nonsense. We drag emotional baggage around like 10-ton weights behind us.
Anne Lamott tells the story of her friend Pammy, who at the time was dying of cancer. Lamott was shopping for a dress, and she asked Pammy whether it was unflattering. And Pammy replied, “Annie, you just don’t have that kind of time.”
And you don’t. Your days, your energy, your life are too precious to spend on nonsense.
Don’t read the comments in just about anything on the Internet. Don’t engage in mean-spirited political debates. Don’t watch the news. Don’t watch commercials. Don’t share spiteful things on Facebook. Don’t fight about things that aren’t matters of earth-shattering importance. Don’t think twice about the jerk in the store.
But really I can’t tell you what to do with this. I don’t even know anyway. I just feel like I need to change.
Maybe start today looking at your own life and the lives of those around you differently. Reflect on what is most important to you. Remember your hard battles and those of others, and extend compassion in every direction, at least a little. Hold on to kindness, to yourself and those you encounter. Let this change you. See what happens.