“Adversity doesn’t create character, it reveals it” (James Lane Allen). The same is true of crisis and we are all up to our chins the cesspool of crisis we call 2020. Before you stop reading, I need to let you know that this is not another rant, it is a realization.
But first, I digress…
When the going gets tough, not just for some, but for the masses, we get to see the people behind their masks. Not a mask that is worn because of a pandemic, but rather the masks that all of us have and use in various situations including social media. Actually a rare opportunity and it is happening now.
Consider this, let’s say you are having a conversation with your mother-in-law and she informs you that she is going to drop off a fresh batch of her special tuna surprise because she knows how you love it. Fact: You hate tuna and she knows it. The only surprise, in your humble opinion, is how long the odor can hang like smog within your home. Seriously, atomic fallout has a shorter half-life!
Typically, in effort to keep family ties strong, you would thank her and tell her how she is so very kind and thoughtful and how you won the mother-in-law lottery. But today you just aren’t feeling it because for the past 4+ months you have been bombarded with people arguing politics, how and where to vote, masks or no masks, getting tested or not, fake news, riots verses peaceful demonstrations, good cops vs bad cops and who is hoarding what essential supplies, what makes a person essential, not to mention who should get unemployment and who should get their lazy butt off the couch and get a job!
You must decide if you will put on your kind person mask or if you let your words fly. You could spout off about after 25 (or whatever number) years how can she possibly forget that not only do you hate tuna but you are allergic to it. You could accuse her of trying to kill you. Eating tuna gives you hives and makes breathing difficult. Once you get started you might even decide it feels good to tell the old biddy that she isn’t a good American because if she were she would know that she should be baking apple pies! You love apple pie and because no one has ever endangered a dolphin by baking fruity desserts. You could even decide that she is part of an evil conspiracy.
Once you are on a roll you might as well inform the little stooped over, gray-haired hag that her son/daughter is not the perfect person that she proudly raised. Go ahead, spew out the venomous phrases you have withheld for the 25 years because you have been putting up with her self-centered egotistical brat and today is the day you tell her what you really think. You also could choose to simply say, thank you, and either discreetly dispose of the casserole after she leaves or let the tuna loving members of you family feast on the dish while you watch Flipper reruns in the living room and shop online for air-fresheners that eliminate stubborn odors.
Meanwhile, back to the realization part of the post. The hypothetical tuna casserole didn’t put hurtful words into your brain. They were either already there, or they weren’t. Character isn’t something we put on and take off like a pair of shoes. Confucius was right, “Where ever you go, there you are”.
We are in the midst of crisis. The longer it goes on, the more people are showing their true character. Stress doesn’t just lower our immune systems it lowers our tolerance and our facade. My realization is that character, others and mine too, has always been there. The difference is that now it is being whipped out in radical public display. Folks used to show their character in brief glimpses, kind of like a city park flasher, leaving you to kind of wonder if you really saw what you think you did while you contemplate the hazardous effects of putting Clorox into your eyes in an effort to unsee the sight. Now, in good old 2020, it seems that plenty of people are choosing to show their character as if they are a 1970’s streaker in slow motion and with 47 instant replays.
You know the cliche’ about not being on the same page with someone, right? I have decided that there are plenty of people that aren’t even in the same book. Heck, there are many that I don’t even want to be with in the same library! But it is a good thing, a very good thing, it might even be a beautiful thing! I am getting to see who they really are like never before. I am observing the name callers and I will remember that they may also call me names now or in the future. Name calling is part of who they are. I am noting the instigators. They like to throw out a retweet or copied post and then watch emotions flair as people from every side defend or attack. I will henceforth remember to limit my conversations with them. If I want drama I have Netflix.
I am noticing the hypocrites that whine over their rights being violated by being asked to wear a mask, yet I see that same person wear one while attending church. I also quietly pay attention to the person that admonishes non-mask wearers on social media but then posts pictures to Instagram of their neighborhood pool party or how they had the entire senior class visit for a prom party. These are the people that I will never again take what they say seriously
My heart is also warmed to see that some of my special people are still the same. They are stressed, worried and they too have opinions and flaws, but they are kind, The type of goodness that goes all the way to their core. They are the good apples and I appreciate having them in my life now more than ever before. They don’t have to be on the same page as me but I want them in my world, my personal apple pie.
I am choosing to see this as a blessing, I have the opportunity to see people like never before, really see them deep down. I have never before been able to see so humans being genuine, some good, some not. It is a learning opportunity and I am soaking it up.
Have a blessed week you beautiful apples. Thanks for being in my pie!
Kudos to the following that allowed the use of their photographs: Benjamin Suter, Artem Everest, Alex Iby, Stepen Babinin, Damien Patkowski and your truly, Suzanne Pogue