One of my strengths is that, in general, I mean what I say and say what I mean.
My kids find this both comforting, and maddening. I have heard them say, on more than one occasion, "Once she says 'no' that's it – there's no moving her."
But there are some places I am quite inconsistent in.
Take spiders in the house. Generally, I think of spiders as a good thing, because they eat many of the bugs that really annoy me. So by-and-large, if I see an eight-legger, I will usually live and let live (unless my daughter, who LOATHES them is around, in which case, I will capture them and set them free outside). However, occasionally, I smoosh them. What determines the benevolance or the excecution? No idea.
Similarly, with mice in my barn. I think mice are adoreable. If they didn't multiply like, well, mice, and if their droppings didn't carry disease, I would just share my space and resources. But I learned the hard way one winter and actually lost an animal to disease caused by an exploding population of mice. So, when I see them, I steel myself and set out traps. But, my snapping traps are not always effective, especially if they only catch a tail. What do I do? Of course, I set the mouse free! The other day, I set four free, only to catch them more lethally the next day. I rescued one from our indoor cat earlier this year, because the cat didn't just kill it – it was "playing" with it to death, and I knew that mouse would suffer for hours. So I took it a block away and released it in a field.
There are other examples of this strange behavior – eighteen months ago, I stopped buying meat at the grocery store, because I was horrified at what animals go thorough in the process of being raised enmass and slaughtered. But the problem is that I actually really LIKE meat, and I hate being around high-maintenance people, so I'm not going to become one by going whole-hog (no pun intended) with this. When I am with other people, I consume what they are enjoying. What is that, if not totally inconsistent?
I think what is happening with the spiders, the mice, the food, and numerous other examples, is that I have a low tolerance for suffering. Somehow, I am assessing what will cause more distress for me and for the other individual and I choose the lesser of the two. For example, I hate the way wasps crunch when you kill them – it totally disgusts me (i.e. makes me suffer), so 9 times out of ten, I will find a way to get it to leave peacefully, rather than kill it. But if I can find their nests, I have absolutely no compunctions against spraying it – we go through five cans of the foaming death each summer. I HATE wasps. So, obviously, my high regard for life has some limits.
This sounds semi-noble, or at least eccentricly interesting, until you apply it with people.
All real relationships require eventual uncomfortablness . Some form of exposure. Most certainly confrontation of differences. And reality causes pain at varying levels. Do I do what is best for them, in terms of authenticity and honesty, even if it creates anxiety and distress within me?
Like the previous examples, I am inconsistent. Even though I would like to believe I am not.
Good thing I'm mid-life … I've still got time to grow.