There are times in life where our strengths become our weaknesses – or, at least, they’re seen as such. If you care too much, try to hard, or are too understanding – people get the impression, for better or worse, that you’re a weak person. That you’re a pushover or a pawn. You’re too nice.
For me, if you’re important to me, I try to be understanding and accommodating. I see that as just being a good, caring person. (Like forgiveness, I see it as an attribute of the strong.) If we haven’t seen each other in a while and your schedule isn’t as flexible as mine, I will bend over backward trying to find time for us to hang out. I will get up early or stay up late. If the plans need to be made last minute, I might not schedule anything for a whole week, in the hopes that we can see each other. Because if you matter to me, I want to make the time. Period. This isn’t a weakness. It’s a choice. I chose to do that, and it’s always a deliberate thing – I’m not lacking in social opportunities.
It occurred to me, today, that some people view this as a negative thing. And it can be, if I let people take advantage of me. I’ve done that. I’ve bent over backward in the past, only to come up with snake eyes and hurt feelings. I’m not one to have outlandish expectations for any relationship, friendship or romantic. But there have been times where I bend too much, without getting anything in return. That’s partly my fault – and partly that the other person is behaving like captain of the asshat parade.
I think it is important to be flexible. I’ve seen what rigidity and an inability to compromise can do to a relationship. It isn’t pretty, darlings. It’s also been said that the person in a relationship who cares the most has the least power. That can also be seen as weakness. Except for me: I’m not after power. I never am. If I wanted power, I’d go into politics. In any kind of relationship, I just want connection. And the truth is that letting people in is damned hard, sometimes. Most of the time. It’s like walking a tightrope during a thunderstorm over the Grand Canyon. But some people never even risk it – never allow themselves the possibility or the thrill that comes with that endeavor. They stick to acquaintances and surface relationships. (There are different levels of friendship – but that’s another story for another day.)
Some people never risk or stop allowing themselves to risk. When we stop really trying and letting people in, that’s when we start losing. Granted, I’m not necessarily a paragon of anything. You can’t get to know me in an hour. And there are secrets I will always keep close to my chest. I’ve been hurt more times that I can count, but I figure if I haven’t, I’ve turned into a hermit and totally stopped living. Risk is a part of life.
There’s one relationship in particular that I gave everything I had to. Every thing I did, it was my choice. I chose to put in the effort and the time. I made a point of being open and flexible. I figure, if I can be flexible – why wouldn’t I? I think that the other person saw that, maybe, as a negative. A character flaw. Maybe a liability. And I wonder, when did we start viewing kindness and compassion as weaknesses? When did we start viewing gestures in a spirit other than how they are extended? I don’t know.
This world can be full of such horrific bullshit that I think kindness is necessary. So many people are awful and selfish. So many people offer disappointment and derision as food and water. So many people only want what they want, never seeing the other side of an argument. It’s a dangerous thing to be able to view another person’s perspective.
Over the summer, someone told me: you are the perfect woman. How are you still single?
I didn’t tell him that I am far from perfect. I’m so flawed that there should be another word for it. I did not tell him that being single is a choice I’ve gladly made for years, because I know exactly what I want – and that’s one thing I won’t bend or compromise on. I’m not perfect, but I’m good. I’m not easy, but I try. I’m not single because I’m somehow less – I’m single, because I won’t settle. I never wanted ordinary, and I won’t accept anything but everything.
There may be people out there giving me side-eye for all the gymnastics, both emotional and accommodational. (Not a word, I know. Shuuush.) But they don’t matter. You can’t let other people, and their opinions, dictate your actions. That isn’t ever a strength.
*title taken from Sara Bareilles’ “She Used to Be Mine,” which you can listen to below.