Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cowboys Are Good, Drummers Are Bad. Right?

   Some friends and I watched a group of people that we respected behave in a way that left us shaking our heads in dismay. We saw a not very pretty side to people we thought highly of.  It wasn’t Lindsey Lohan or Tiger Woods bad but would have definitely been tabloid fodder in Hollywood.  They are who they are and they did what they did. That isn’t the problem. It only nominally affected me and the rest is, frankly, none of my business. The problem is how I feel about them and myself now.  It’s left a dark spot on my heart.
   I tried forgiveness, love, looking at it from their perspective. Forgiveness and love are handy tools but they are not the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser I’m so fond of, at least not in this case.  It’s time to stop being dismayed and take a loving and unflinching look at my self and my role in the ill feelings I’m harboring. 
    Most of the time the feelings we have about someone say more about us than the person they seem to be about and that’s true in this case.   What caused the dark spot on my heart had very little to do with what they did and every thing to do with my reaction to it.  My tendency to engage in all or nothing thinking, what John Bradshaw refers to as, “either/or thinking,” is the problem.  People are right or wrong, good or bad. I like you. I don’t like her. Drummers are bad. Cowboys are good.  The truth of the matter is that no one is all good or all bad, all right or all wrong, all one thing or another.  Not even when it comes to drummers and cowboys.  I forget that sometimes. 
    Having a knee jerk, slap a label on someone and put them in a box reaction is a way of avoiding the messy business of relationships. I don’t have to deal with you if I already know who I think you are. I can just deal with the label I’ve so conveniently assigned you. And the best part about labels is that they don’t talk back. They don’t challenge my perception of reality.  I don’t have to deal with my own, rather messy, emotions if I’ve dismissed you as a category.  I can just keep on behaving like I’m right and you’re not.
    People are not a sort and label activity.  None of us, not the worst and not the best of us, none of us are either/or anything.  More often then not we are both/and something. That’s what makes people so endlessly interesting and why good novels get written and good films get made. They’re all about the complexity of the human experience.
   One of the best things I got from my 90 Day challenge was a loving respect for the messiness of the human experience.  I miss that when I lose myself in either/or thinking. And that’s a shame. Either/or type of thinking keeps me blinded to the fullness of the human experience and the richness of who I am.
Drummers are good in bed and likely to do their own thing. Cowboys are sexy and a little old fashioned.  Who I think anyone is or isn’t doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of my heart. Having a clean heart makes a loving reaction more likely and the only person who can make that happen is me.  

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