What I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for a ridiculously long time and I kind of feel bad about it. I feel particularly silly because it seems counterintuitive for a professional writer’s blog to be devoid of words. I’ll blame it on Shoemaker’s Children syndrome and just being really, really busy. After all, it’s the truth.

So, here I am. The list of things I could write about is as long as my arm. It ranges from my thoughts on current events to sharing fun little stories about work, married and family life, or remodeling a house (ugh!). None of that is on my mind today.

People often write up postmortems about life-changing events and I’ve got a litany of my own lately that range from a new marriage and moving, to a health issue, a couple of major projects I’ve undertaken, and so on. However, the learning experiences I’ve taken away from all of these events seem to boil down to one thing — and it predates the events themselves.

When you’re in the midst of The Very Important Things, it’s difficult to see what kind of person you’ll be when the dust settles. While I’ve learned a lot about myself in recent years, I’ve learned even more about the world around me and, specifically, the people in it.

It took me a long time to realize that for every poisonous person in this world there are double the genuinely good souls. I noticed a while back that I was spending too much time dealing with the former at the expense of the latter. I also noticed that poisonous people tend to pool together and I began making it a point to avoid those swamps. My life has been infinitely better for it.

Those of you who know me are aware that I have an exceptionally low tolerance for bullying that dates back to early childhood. As an adult, I was disappointed to discover that bullies still exist in the grown-up world, often slathered with a greasy sheen of manipulation to soften the edges.

I railed against such behavior in adults for a long time before I finally realized the answer was to simply cut off their food supply and not engage at all. It doesn’t stop the behavior, but it certainly removes the impact it has on my life. Bullies are a festering bacteria, but they can’t invade your ecosystem if you wash your hands.

I realized that the wonderful life-changing events I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy are a direct result of my refusal to wallow, rail, fight against, or challenge people who make it their life’s work to be assholes. Instead, I spend my time enjoying the opportunities that find people when they’re happy to the core.

Have you ever taken a hard look at people who try to force others to bend to their will? They look old, ravaged, and miserable (hint: they are). Contrast that with people who are happy, ambitious, and enrich the lives of those around them. They look peaceful (another hint: they are).

This was driven home to me recently when someone I haven’t seen in quite a long time came to visit. The last time he’d seen me, I was struggling with a situation brought on by someone who wanted their happiness to come at the expense of mine. The visitor remarked to Michael that I looked “radiant and serene,” and that the last time he’d seen me, well…not so much. That’s all the evidence I needed to know that I’ve made the right decisions.

So what does this have to do with lessons I’ve learned from life-changing events? Simply this. You only get one go-around on this planet. You can choose to spend it challenging desperate people with agendas but no life, or you can choose to spend it with people who have delightful lives and no agenda.

When you do, you’ll find that the life-altering events that come your way are enriching instead of draining. When you encounter a road block, you’ll have people to support you instead of people so wrapped up in their version of the world that all they bring to the table is anger at the “unfairness of it all.” Oh, please.

It seems to me that people are reluctant to walk away from poisonous situations because they’ll lose something important to them in the process. While that may happen temporarily, I’ve never seen it last. I’ve found that whatever precious-to-you tendrils have coiled themselves around a bad situation eventually lose their grip and head for a sunnier environment. Every single time.

Experience has taught me that not all bullies give up, especially when they refuse to realize that it’s their very actions that created the consequences they dislike so much. Let them tilt at windmills and just walk away. Toxic people create and thrive in toxic environments and I prefer to breathe clean air.

If you’re stuck wondering why things just don’t seem to go your way, take a look at what — or whom — is gaining from holding you back. If you’re spending all your energy pushing back against people who want it their way or no way at all, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Instead spend that energy on people who light up your life, be patient, and watch the things you thought you’d lost gravitate back to you.

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