It’s been days since I started a post but months since I published one. Typical me: great starter, not so great finisher.
I never want to come across as an expert or authority on anything other than my own life and my own experience, and even with those two things I’m rarely either. It’s the normal circumstance of being too close to something to be objective. I try to be honest about how many questions I have about life and how little I recognize about my own. I like to think this is fairly universal but that’s probably me wishing I’m in good company when it comes to a lack of objectivity about my life.
There are many common threads in life that I relate to: self doubt, insecurity, and confusion come to mind first. I’m human and I embrace that I am not nor will I ever be perfect. But I also try I strive for other things: curiosity, open mindedness, objectivity and an eager willingness to learn and to change.
I’ve always said I’m never happier than when I have a test to study for. Not because I enjoy homework but because I want to be challenged to expand my knowledge base and become a fuller, more well rounded person. There are so many things in life that I dearly love, I just don’t know it yet because I haven’t made it around to them yet. I recognize that for as fantastic as my life has been, it’s but a small fraction of what is out there for experience and existence. I want to be exposed to and appreciate as much as possible for as long as I have during this go round on earth.
I try very hard to remember that life is impartial, and this is something I struggle with. Things happen, circumstances change. Everything is in a constant state of flux. And what happens does so with no regard for anything or anyone. What happens is neutral, and that’s difficult to recognize. Whether we view something as positive or negative depends solely upon our viewpoint and how we interpret events. A very basic example is what seems like the end for the caterpillar is the beginning for the butterfly.
My collective personal experience and professional exposure to a variety of things does give me a deeper knowledge of certain circumstances that are potentially scary and/or not common to the “average” person. How many people were taking care of a stage IV pressure ulcer on their dad’s hip at age 14? Who else knows how to play cats cradle by themselves with their feet?
I spent quite a while talking with someone yesterday who found themselves faced with being accused of being an unfit parent. The objective fact that they aren’t was almost completely lost to their emotional trauma of the accusation and the subsequent fallout because of this. Their natural and gut reaction is to do anything and everything they can do to defend themselves and prove that the accusation is false.
How many times have each of us at one point or another been called something that isn’t true? You’re untalented. You’re irresponsible. You’re stupid. You’re ugly. You’re shallow. You’re lazy. You’re a liar. You’re a cheat. You’re a horrible child/sibling/friend/parent. You’re unqualified for X/Y/Z.
How do we react to it when someone else throws a pile of mud and shit on our doorstep? Of course our natural inclination is to immediately clean up the mess and to prove it’s not our garbage. But let me ask: who are we trying to prove that to? Usually it’s to anyone and everyone who may have seen the pile of trash and heard the negative thing about ourselves. And generally if we are taking the time and effort to prove otherwise, it’s because the allegation simply ISN’T TRUE. How could we, why should we put up with this shit? We don’t deserve to be treated like garbage and we shouldn’t be used as a dumping ground. It’s wrong, and who the hell does that person(s) think they are, how could they have the unmitigated gall to make such a claim? It’s simply not fair.
The reality is that anyone can think or do or say whatever they want about us. We have NO control over that. It sucks, but we can only control our part of the equation. The only thing in our lives we have actual control over is ourselves; how we think, what we say, how we act. Nobody else, just us.
My viewpoint is that when someone makes a claim about us, at that point everything else is on that person. We keep on living our own life as we have been. If our house is in order and our yard is picked up, we keep on washing the dishes each night after supper, cutting the grass, and picking the dog shit up off the lawn. And we can lose sleep and gnash our teeth and grind our wheels over whatever it is, but this won’t change anything. Anyone has the right to think whatever they want to about us, be it from crack whore to astronaut. The situation changes when they share their opinion. Then it’s up to that person to prove themselves right, NOT for us to prove them wrong. Since the dawn of time people have had opinions of others, and have passed their opinions on to other people. This happens all day, every day. It won’t ever change. What is far less common is people having actual facts to back up their claim.
You told my friends I’m a whore? I’m fucking their boy/girlfriend? You called me a backstabber to my friends? You told my boss I’m drunk on the job? You told my parents I’m using them for their money? You told the church deacon the collections have been less lately because I’m skimming from the top?
At this point, probably one of two things is accurate. Either that person is right to some degree and for some reason felt they were justified in making whatever the thing is common knowledge, or that person is wrong and are talking out their ass.
If they’re right, I wouldn’t say they’re actually “right”. If what they said actually IS, the only thing that person is now is accurate. Saying something that’s true is NOT the same thing as saying something right. If whatever this is happens to be factual, at this point you don’t have to do anything but you would be better served if you own it because either way it’s yours and how you handle it is the only thing that’s in your control. If the elephant already lives in your living room, what are you gaining by denying it’s existence?
If, on the other hand, they are completely full of shit, you still don’t have to do anything. You don’t owe anyone anything, least of all an explanation and you certainly don’t owe Jack Shit to the piece of shit who threw up in public at your expense.
Either way, except under very narrow circumstances, you still don’t owe anyone else anything. Don’t let anyone in life convince you otherwise. You’re not obligated to justify or defend. It’s not your job to come up with reasons why something is what it is, or get together examples of why the thing you’re accused of is crap. Your ONLY responsibility is to yourself, and then to address things with anyone who is personally and directly impacted. And this group is 99% smaller than people try to make it seem.
Something being factual doesn’t make it good or bad. The thing is just a thing; it’s neutral. So why do we view things as negative? I think it’s usually because for whatever reason we’re not at peace with it. We view it as being wrong for some reason. We’re confused, we feel shame, we feel guilt, we feel inferior, we feel wrong. We don’t know why/how we got where we are.
For me, the deeper and more difficult question is why do I have the negative reaction? Oh boy, that can be a really deep discussion to have with myself. Hindsight is ALWAYS clearer than forward vision. How many times have I been somewhere in my life that I eventually say to myself “how the fuck did I get here and why the hell didn’t I learn my lesson the last time?”
What I’ve reluctantly accepted is that for whatever reason, I’ve been where I have because I needed to be there at that time. There are life lessons I’ve needed, things I had to experience. I’ve almost never appreciated that at the time, and to this day there are things in my past that seriously piss me off that I have no fucking clue as to why they happened. I will say the older I get the more I appreciate that I’ve not always been in a situation because it will eventually benefit me. Sometimes my lowest points in life have been a benefit to someone else, despite being a complete and total shit show for myself.
This does tie in to the title, burden of proof. When someone talks shit about you, if it’s accurate so be it. The circumstances will bear that out. If it’s not something you want to talk about, you should probably consider why. In my opinion, it’s also almost NEVER because you’re even remotely close to being a bad person. Almost always we are too hard on ourselves. We tend to listen to the public conversation and see social norms and watch social media, and always seem to find ourselves lacking. I wonder if it were someone we care about instead of us in the same situation, would we judge as harshly? For my money, the answer is no. Unrealistic expectations aren’t just for teens anymore, they’re just more obviously affected. I am so concerned for the younger generation. In my day it was gossip in the smoking square and shit scrawled on the bathroom walls and name calling in the locker room getting ready for gym class (holy fuck, when the put the swimming pool in my high school I wanted to die). Now it’s absolutely everywhere and no place seems to be safe. I had an 11 year old in my office yesterday with a black eye because he wouldn’t beat up another kid that other kids called a fag.
Regarding the burden of proof, people are inevitably going to accuse others of something that’s not true. I think one of the worst places to be is in a position where you hear something about yourself and then have to wait for others to realize it’s crap, especially because there’s rarely anything you can do to actually prove your case. Anyone can say whatever they choose to. But when they do, at that point the responsibility is on them to put up or shut the fuck up. And if they can’t put up, anyone and everyone who matters in your life will know it. For that matter anyone who matters in your life should come to you and question that shit at the start. And if they don’t? Hey, don’t be too hard on them. It’s not always easy to go to someone you care about, especially if it’s a sensitive subject. We wish it were, and we are hurt when it doesn’t happen, but if you really think about it how many times in your life have you heard something about someone you love and haven’t felt comfortable going to them directly? It’s the world we live in. Straight talk should be encouraged, but it’s not. Don’t shy away from it. It’s hardly ever comfortable, but it generally IS comforting. There is a difference.
I know it’s rarely ever this simple. Legally, the rule is innocent until proven guilty, although how common is it to be convicted in the court of public opinion? In the realm of family court, matters tend to be biased towards the mother and/or the person with the better lawyer. But I still believe that the facts of a situation will always bear out. Living proper is rarely glorious. But in instances of unfounded accusations, along with proper legal counsel it’s the best defense. Keep our nose clean, continue as we have been which is right and good and appropriate and without reason to question.
The person I spent so much time on the phone with yesterday, the one thing I made it a point to stress before we got off the phone is the reason they’re so eager and willing to make their case to everyone else (they wanted to go so far as to call CPS on themselves) is because they have reason to. Someone is saying terrible, hurtful lies about them. But the only person’s opinion who truly matters is their own. THEY are the person they need to tell that they are a good parent. And they need to listen to themselves. They need to believe in themselves. Regardless of what comes with court or with the neighbors or with relatives or with school, there’s nothing that will be found that can support the allegation that they are an unfit parent because there’s simply nothing to find. They’re being attacked, they desperately want to convince everyone else how wrong this is, they can feel the wrongness in their bones. Bones are one thing, but what about their head and their heart? Are those convinced? Can their eyes see and their heart truly believe what others can see? They know without a doubt at the end of every day they have done the best with all that they have to work with to care for their children in every way. That is the definition of a good parent. In the face of screaming accusations though, the voices of the head and heart are usually the quietest ones.
We need to be kinder to ourselves. We all have our own voices that whisper quietly as we fall asleep that the day may not have gone like we had intended, but we did our best and that’s enough.
I think when people start slinging insults and accusations, they generally count on the other person being so embarrassed by even the thought of being called out in public that they won’t fight back. They feel even more powerful and Godlike if they can work any shred of truth into it. The most viscous people I’ve ever seen are the ones who are smart enough to weave just enough facts into the web of lies they spin. They’re counting on either not being questioned at all, or if questioned being able to prove just enough of their claim that nobody thinks to ask if it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Just because something is factual doesn’t make it anyone else’s business. Unless someone is truly and unavoidably impacted by a situation, it’s none of their concern. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but they don’t have the right to get involved in something that doesn’t legitimately concern them. That’s your territory. You may have to spend a lot of energy defining and protecting your borders and ignoring those who create scenes because they’re not allowed to cop a squat on your land, but that’s your right.
Good, bad, or indifferent, having clearly marked, non negotiable boundaries is SO important. Love yourself enough to define appropriate boundaries and absolutely insist everyone else respect them. People will talk this and that shit, that won’t change. Some things will be correct, some will be false, and there will be everything in between. The facts won’t change because someone said something. When the shit starts flowing, be honest. Objectively, do any facts support what’s being said? If no, although it’s usually little comfort, hold on to that. Unless someone is straight up lying, they can’t prove something that’s not true and sooner or later others will recognize the lie. A person loses their power and credibility if they can’t prove their claim. And what if part or all of it is true? What if there really is an elephant in your living room? In that case you own it, NOT the other way around. It’s your living room. You have the power, and you call the shots. My advice? Make that bitch pay rent and use it as a foot rest.