I sent that letter at about 6pm last night. When I woke up (okay, I slept until like 12 or 1pm or something ridiculous, but GOD did it feel good! Don’t judge!) I saw a text message from her on my phone: “I’m not ignoring your email. I just want to respond with the right words. I will reply soon.”
Her reply came through to FB at about 1:40 pm.
I was shocked. And kinda impressed.
It began: “You are right; about a lot of things.”
She apologized. For a lot of things. For each item of specific complaint I included in the letter: the FB post, the lack of interest in our Gift Exchange and for doublebooking herself and handling it badly. She didn’t remember insulting Jack or Broham or I, but accepted that it was likely she had without being aware of it. She acknowledged that she knows she can be rude and sarcastic. She knows she crosses lines and often beats herself up for things she has said.
She also said this:
And what’s more: she’s right. She does have a lot of positive qualities. And I haven’t forgotten those. But I completely disagree with her premise. I completely disagree with the idea that we are static, unchangeable personalities that cannot learn, change or grow. That we are stuck with who we are and cannot control our behavior ultimately.
I thought about that issue a long, long time. I thought about all of the books about happiness I’ve been reading. Books about people’s transformations and journeys.
How can a person honestly believe that being a total bitch is an unchangeable personality trait? To the point of wanting to be accepted IN SPITE of being an unchangeable total bitch?
I thought for a long time. I talked to Jack and to both of my friends mentioned before.
See, I honestly believe that people can learn new behaviors. And my happiness, and a large degree of my hope, depends on that belief.
I figured I have 3 options:
- I can walk away. She even gave me that choice.
- I can remain friends, but set strict limits. Keep my expectations of her low. Realize that she will occasionally say something hurtful and figure out a way to let her know when she’s doing it.
- I can try to help her.
Because I believe that making changes to your behavior changes your mood, your empathy levels, your worldview. I’ve experienced it. Like I said to G (Jack’s dad – see here for some background on him if you want it) during our Philosophical discussion on Christmas: I believe I can choose to focus on the positive. And I believe that by choosing that focus and choosing to be optimistic this time, I’m flexing a muscle that will grow stronger. And by flexing that muscle enough, I can learn to see the positive more easily and I can feel lighter more often.
I’m still learning. I’m not always good at seeking out the positive stimuli in the world. Or taking the optimistic view. In fact, the last two years have been so crappy I find it easier and easier to fall into a pessimistic, cynical place. But when I’m able to be optimistic, I feel better. I feel lighter and more energetic and hopeful. And I believe (and some smart people I used to know, three of my former-therapists, my ex-boss who was also a former-therapist, every book on the topic I’ve read recently and most Buddhists will back me up on this) I can control which way to see the world. That’s a choice I make. I’m just not very good at making that choice yet. But I’m getting better.
So I believe that SHE will be happier if she adopts my worldview. I can help her learn the behaviors. We can take this journey together. That’s what I mean by #3. I really can help her.
But she has to want to believe me.
With W (Jack’s half-brother. See here for some background on him), he knows that he lacks social skills – just like her. But he is trying to learn those skills. He welcomes my corrections when necessary and at least hopes to do better in the future. Another friend of Jack’s, a guy we’ll call Mumli The Dwarf (I will HAVE to write a whole post on him another time), also lacks social skills. He knows it on some level, doesn’t like it, but if you can get him past the hurt and embarassment of being corrected, he does believe that he can do better in the future.
I’m willing to help W and Mumli because THEY believe they can change and improve over time. Yes, it’s exhausting sometimes but I think it’s in all of our best interests that they learn these skills. In their own best interest, and mine, and Jack’s and G’s and everyone’s.
If she is willing to try to change her behavior, I can help her to do that. And I will gladly. But I’m not going to put the effort in if she doesn’t want to change her behavior. Or if she doesn’t believe that it’s even possible.
So here’s a Word doc that contains the text of what I sent back to her (I tried to screenshot it but I couldn’t make it big enough… I’m still learning this HTML/Wordpress thing). If you’re interested, please feel free to read it.
The summary is: I offered #3. I explained my worldview and how I perceived her worldview. I tried to draw a distinction between personality and behavior. And I told her that I need her to understand that we can change our behavior. And, yes, I offered to help her do just that if she wants me to.
And then I offered coffee. Tomorrow or Thursday. No response thus far. I’ll keep ya posted, Internet.