Thursday, March 18, 2010

If You Knew How Little People Thought of You

There’s an old quotation from the famous advice columnist Ann Landers which has stuck with me for years: “If you knew how little people thought of you, you wouldn’t worry how little people think of you.”

At first it sounds negative but I see it as positive and freeing. People don’t think about you nearly as much as you think about you. We are so caught up in our own little lives, sure of our uniqueness and importance, that other people’s experiences barely register. We simply couldn’t care less.

That’s why new parents think theirs is the only child ever born, and why young women cough up thousands for wedding dresses that are all pretty much the same, while thinking theirs alone is special. Our natural blinders cut out all others, leading us to believe we are the only person who ever got married; got hurt by love or failed out of school. It’s all about us.

It’s wonderful how self-absorbed we all are. I’m not being sarcastic. I think it probably protects us from the awareness of how interlocked we are; that we are more Borg-like than we may care to acknowledge. 

But back to me…. ;)

As I tell people about my impending divorce, many, while sympathetic, are not very interested. I say this not out of self-pity but with an amused awareness.

My neighbors were devastated by my news. They told us they loved having us as neighbors. They were very sad to see us leave and if we had any gardening pots could they have them please?

A old family friend’s response to hearing my news was telling me about his bathroom reno.

I know, I know. You’re probably saying well maybe they didn’t know what to say. And sure, I’ve made my share of inappropriate jokes and ill-timed comments. I've been guilty of simply ignoring those to whom I didn’t know what to say.

I noticed myself being a little offended that others would just go about their daily lives in the face of my Really Important News. I realised I had expected certain ways of responding, and that other types of response were not acceptable to me. How dare my sister continue training for that half marathon when I Am Getting A Divorce? My friends were expected to check in daily, to offer support and sympathetic ears.

So becoming aware of that was educational. I learned I was expecting a free pass in relationships because – well because my problems were more important.

I actually take comfort in my life being just another wave on the ocean. Keeping my sense of self-importance in check reminds me that nothing is that important; that fifty years from now this will all be over and that in the global scheme of things it’s not a big deal. Look up into the stars - you'll never be overwhelmed by your own self-importance :)