I want to write about something I’ve been wrestling with lately. This is definitely somewhat related to my looking back post, but a somewhat different take on it. Namely, the relationships I do still have but which I question the overall desirability of keeping.
My heart keeps coming back to this place of tension due the fact that I am someone who generally values relationships, probably because I don’t build them easily, but there are several relationships in my life which no longer feel healthy for me to be in. Some of these relationships are with people and some are with institutions, but the common denominator seems to be that I have changed quite a bit over the past five years especially and can no longer relate in the same ways.
My natural inclination has been to see if there is some way the relationships themselves can be adapted. If I have changed and they haven’t, is there some way in which the way we interact can also change so that all parties can move forward, albeit with different expectations?
This feels like the right way forward… except I am not sure it is a way forward at all, when you get right down to it. By their nature, relationships rely on at least two parties, so if there is only one party attempting to make adjustments and the other party doesn’t seem to even register a need for such an effort, can the fundamental nature of any change be mutually beneficial?
In the places in my life where I have noticed this tension, it has begun to feel more and more as though the onus to adapt to the new paradigm is only on me. This does not strike me as fair.
An example, since this feels abstract: I have several long-term relationships with various people of the friends and family varieties While we’ve probably been drifting further and further apart ideologically for some time, the advent of the pandemic has really thrown a lot of the changes into stark relief and in a way where it’s not always possible to just accept we don’t agree and avoid the topic. I no longer feel comfortable being physically around these people, because they not only won’t wear masks if they don’t have to, they won’t get vaccinated and they associate with a whole lot of other like-minded individuals.
I cannot ignore this. So the nature of the relationship has changed such that I will not put myself or my equally cautious loved ones at risk for the sake of spending time in person with this segment of my relationships.
This is all bad enough, in my opinion, but what makes the whole equation feel even more unbalanced to me is that I don’t even feel like I can have an honest exchange of ideas with any of these people.
Shortly after I got vaccinated, I was on the phone with a friend and mentioned I had gotten the Moderna and – honestly just assuming she would be getting the vaccine – asked if she had gotten hers or was planning on it soon. It didn’t even enter my mind that she wouldn’t.
You know what they say about making assumptions.
In one conversation that quickly turned very uncomfortable, I learned that not only would she and her family not be getting vaccinated, she is generally against vaccines and a whole bunch of other things I am not going to get into here because I don’t think it’s right for me to get into that level of detail about someone else’s beliefs.
I will say that it wasn’t a productive conversation from there. Anything I had to say was met with a barrage of anecdotal evidence or statements that it appears I was meant to take as factual even though they lacked supporting evidence. My opinions on anything to do with regard to COVID-19 were – it became clear to me – uninformed, misguided and just wrong. (And, you know, I will absolutely admit I am not a scientist or a doctor and I am by no means an expert, but I do make the effort to have my opinion informed by those who are doctors – including my family doctor – and scientists and experts, not by random people on social media or pundits on the news. So there’s that.)
After getting off the phone, I talked to Casey, and caught him up on the overall gist of the conversation. The only conclusion we could draw was that there doesn’t seem to be any chance of our getting together with this friend or her family any time in the near future, if ever.
Then there’s my family. They mocked me to my face at my father’s deathbed for wearing a mask while they did not. Every time I insisted I would not eat at all or would eat outside in the Minnesota winter, I was met scorn and derision. “What is it about you that makes you so afraid of this?” my mom asked me at one point.
What is it about me?
There are layers of emotional response I am having in the wake of these encounters.
I’m annoyed that I have to be the one to set boundaries with friends and family because somehow being asked to wear a mask in public is the most horrific infringement of human rights that has apparently ever happened.
I’m really hurt and saddened by the fact that my health – whether it is physical or mental – doesn’t matter one iota to people who have told me to my face they love me.
I’m frustrated that there doesn’t appear to be any attempt on their part to demonstrate an attempt to understand or show empathy for me or my point of view when I feel I have tried to extend that courtesy to them.
I’m livid that all these people talk about God and their not-at-all-Christlike Christianity and think they have all the answers but honestly don’t seem to understand the really basic idea of love your neighbor. Even the one who you disagree with. (More on this in a future post.)
Tension. It’s very present in my relationships right now, and I think the worst part is that somehow I am expected by all these various parties and entities to be the one who has to navigate it all with some modicum of grace. Doubtless this is because I am the one who changed.
I reject that. Emphatically.
At the start of this post, I said I wasn’t sure that the relationships are worth trying to salvage. I still don’t know that there is a way forward. I don’t think it’s worth my time or energy to try to accommodate the incurious, the close-minded, the people who think they have found The Truth. There is literally no reasoning with such people.
It’s not me. It’s them.