The older I get, the less I seem to know. When I was in my twenties, I had an opinion on everything. In my mind, I had it all sorted out as to what was good, bad, wrong and right. The lines were pretty solid, and I took them as rulers to live by. My experiences were so limited due to my time spent living that I wrote my rule book according to what I’d been told.
I chose a reading this morning in Meditations from the Mat about duality.
The irony is that we can’t define wrong without defining the concept of right. In my early days, I was dead set that divorce was wrong. I saw it as a lazy way of getting out of problems, and I looked with judgment on anyone that took that route. And then it happened to me. All of a sudden, the sharp contrast of that duality between right and wrong lost its laser focus. My life, as well as my beliefs, unraveled.
I finally understand how painful that decision was. Sure, for some it may be a lazy way out, but I know for me it was an extremely difficult choice and not one I took lightly at all. I actually had no idea whether it was “right” or “wrong”. I just knew what I had to do. And plenty of people shared with me how wrong I was to do it. Others just stayed away not understanding my choice. I was left with a solid circle of friends who were formerly divorced. Many of them had never even mentioned it. It was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life – but not fun at all. I know why God hates divorce. It hurts like an SOB.
Many of my beliefs have fallen throughout the years about “right” and “wrong”. My words have become softer and more nuanced. Most people have issues that unfortunately get worse and more ingrained over time. Some of those issues are created by things they’ve done to themselves, but many are created by biology or upbringing. I find myself being more compassionate that judgmental. The exception is when I’m hurt by the behavior. It takes me awhile to reframe things that cause me pain because I have to sort through that to find compassion.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t have values and that anything goes. I try to live by that old “golden rule” to treat others as I would like to be treated. And, honestly, that’s one reason I try to be compassionate. I have my moments when I’m not very nice. My faults and issues flare up on a fairly regular basis, and I hope that others will understand that I’m not perfect but that doesn’t make me a bad human being. It just seems civilized to look another person in the eye and respect them for who they are.
Along with compassion, I set pretty strong boundaries. I respect the fact that you want to be controlling and verbally abusive, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to put myself in your path. I limit my closest relationships to those that are trying to be respectful of others, and I tolerate or avoid the rest. It’s not a high-minded goal, I just sleep better at night when I’m under less stress. And being in relationship with people with deep issues causes a lot of chaos. I prefer serenity.
My priorities have changed throughout my life. It used to be important that people saw me as fitting in or doing things “the right way”. Now I focus more on relationships and enjoying life. I try to get in touch with how something resonates with me inside and act according to that compass. If I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep for thinking about it later, I might better bite my tongue. Life is short, and it’s getting even shorter. The lines are fuzzier, and all of a sudden I have realized that the man behind the curtain is just a pissed off child. Everything looks different at midlife, and I kind of like it like that.