When You Can’t Unknow Something
I had an epiphany this week. Not a general understanding that’d been lost to me, nor a new perspective on a familiar situation.
Well, maybe it was those things as well, but it was beyond them, too.
What’s the difference between a clearer understanding and an epiphany? Well, I can only speak for myself here, but here goes…
There’s been something that’s been bugging me for quite some time — at least a year, if not longer. (I don’t mean to be cryptic here by being nonspecific, but it’s necessary.) I’ll wake up in the morning with my mind on my tasks, what I have and want to accomplish in my day. Somewhere along the line, though, something will happen that will trigger my brooding about this particular annoying thing; it’s the proverbial wound that someone keeps pouring salt in, if you will. Nearly every day, I put ointment on the wound and bandage it, and nearly every day, I’ll find by the time I’m getting into bed that the bandage is all gray and fuzzy and icky, having separated from my skin and collected lint, and there’s that salt that worked its way under my raw skin again.
It’s been incredibly frustrating, and I know I’m not the only one to have experienced something like this. It could be anything to any of us, really, and most of us have at least one of these annoying things we just can’t seem to shake at any given point in our life. I can think back to my 20s and recall, for example, drama over a roommate’s boyfriend. I can recall even earlier drama over the cheerleading squad. (Stop laughing, you jerks!)
The poor people nearest to us at these points in time — in this current case, that would be my boyfriend — have to listen to us drone on and on and on about how tragic and terrible our lives are even though 1) they’re not — not by a long shot — and 2) they very clearly see the problem and usually its remedy as well, having the necessary distance from and lack of emotional investment in it. Most of us have been on both sides of this coin — the bearer of the cross as well as the person who points out the cross is actually a pebble in our shoe that can be picked out quite easily — so I’m guessing you can relate to both sides here.
And like my boyfriend — putting you in the Captain Obvious role here for a moment — you probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out why I just had not figured this thing out yet. Am I stupid? (Don’t answer that.)
And so it has gone with poor Jesus, who’s been grinning and bearing it, reiterating what the real problem has always been since a few months after I started having it. I may come to him with, yes, a different complaint, but inevitably, it’s still one that can be filed under the category of “Main Issue I’ve Been Complaining About for X Months.” He gets it. So what’s my problem?
I guess it just boils down to time: time I needed to snap out of my own denial about — yet again — another case of genuine disregard and lack of investment on the part of another. In other words — like some people, although I’m not sure I can qualify it as “most people” anymore — I have a very difficult time understanding how someone else could carry on not considering the consequences of the things they’re planning to do during the decision-making process as I would. Or, as Jess would say, I have a hard time accepting that other people just don’t think like me.
But it goes beyond that. I actually don’t expect that others will think like me (although, admittedly, I’d like them to). I’m an overanalyzer to the Nth degree, so I know that my kind of thought process is not likely occurring among the majority of people. However, I do expect that others will consider those around them when making their decisions to some degree — you know, giving others a little courtesy and empathy. It’s the humane thing to do, right?
Maybe. But that doesn’t make it any more likely to happen.
Don’t get me wrong. If we’re talking about kitties stranded in trees or little old ladies crossing streets, sure, we can expect that at least one person passing by will use their heart and help the helpless out. But people truly considering the impact of their actions on the lives of others on a daily basis? Turns out that’s idealistic.
I guess some people need the impact of their decisions on others’ lives to be so blatantly apparent to them in the moment (i.e., have kitties and old ladies in their faces) just to even trigger the thought that hey, maybe they should, you know, perhaps consider the implications of their actions (or lack thereof) on other people’s lives. Some need to be spoon-fed an extremely obvious case of “your help is required in this situation” to even spark the notion that their decisions affect the lives of others positively or negatively… or even, in some cases, both.
And sometimes even then, they don’t care. (Ever tried to reason with practicing addicts about the impacts of their decisions on others? Anyone? Anyone?)
Don’t get me wrong. I understand how difficult it would be to consider all the ramifications of each and every decision one makes. I’m sure I’m plenty ignorant of the full breadth of consequences of the choices I make in my own life; I’m American, after all, and that’s the American way.
But if you find yourself in a certain position in life — like a leadership position at a school, a church, or a company, for example — guess what? Considering the impacts of your choices on other people — students, parishioners, stockholders, employees, etc. — is actually what you were hired to do. You get paid to do it. It’s, like, your job. No one should have to tell you to do it, and no one should have to tell you how to do it, either. And we’ve seen plenty of examples of what’s happened to leaders who didn’t do their jobs. And while in some extreme cases, such charlatans have lost their very freedom, those who still walk free, those who haven’t been caught, and even those whose “crimes” are really more just indiscretions (impactful but not criminal) have lost one major thing that they can likely never get back: the respect of others.
Anyway, circling back to what I started talking about eons ago at the beginning of this blog…
It was June 7 — this Thursday. I texted Jess when I noticed that my adorable little bandage with unicorns on it had come unpeeled again. I’m sure he was expecting me to come home from the gym and give him another earful of my broken-record-esque complaints.
But something happened on the way to Anytime.
All the pieces finally started clicking in my head. I’d been looking at this thing for so long under a microscope, I never fully acknowledged the person who’d been slipping the slide under my lens all along — smoke-and-mirroring shiz and throwing me off the scent. Going back to my 20s example, for instance, I really didn’t have beef with my roommate’s boyfriend, who I was picking apart on the stage; I had beef with her. Again, I’d been taking for granted that a person close to me in my life had my interests in mind, at least to some degree.
And I was wrong.
(Yes, certain family members — you know who you are — I do admit I’m wrong sometimes. There’s your proof.)
And I realize that 99% of this was probably obvious to you, gentle reader, but it wasn’t to me, so jump off my balls.
This person’s actions — and this lack of consideration when it comes to me — are not personal. They’re extended to others as well, and I have plenty of examples of this. This whole thing boils down to the fact that some people just won’t or don’t care enough to consider deeper ramifications of their choices. I haven’t determined whether or not this is a conscious choice yet.
But it doesn’t matter. I came home from the gym laughing to myself. When Jess came to meet me at the door, he knew right away that it’d finally clicked, and he started laughing, too. Because real epiphanies, though sometimes they have sad elements to them, ultimately make you smile, because they set you free — free from your brooding thoughts, free from yourself, and eventually, even free from the situation that sparked all this drama in the first place.
Which brings us to the “downside” of epiphanies — which I clearly use loosely here (I mean, what else are those quotation marks for, right?). You can’t fall back into denial once you’ve had a true epiphany. You can’t unknow what you learned in you heart. So now you have to deal with it. Now you have choices to make.
Such choices weren’t there when you were in denial. But now they are, and you know you have no choice but to proceed forward with one of them, because you know you can’t unknow the thing that would’ve kept you from even knowing there were all these other choices available to you out there, let alone making one of them. (Confused yet? Okay, good.)
But these choices don’t have to be daunting. They don’t even have to be hard work. They can and should be viewed as opportunities. And that’s what I’ll be trying to keep in mind now as I proceed forward with this new little awareness of mine. Wish me luck!