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Are you overly sensitive?

December 14, 2009

I check in at an online moms forum every once and awhile…..or sometimes twice a day…..and I find many things interesting. I have been guilty of getting addicted to other mom forums but this one has kept my interest the longest, even if there are weeks that I look through and leave without reading anything. There was one post that has almost 7 pages going now on the things that we say and how hurtful they can be. I guess it is a spin-off of another post where a girl complained that her grandfather had passed and that many of her friends had not sent their condolences and how hurt she was for that.

Anyway, the spin-off post started out asking what hurtful things had been said to others who have been through rough times and asked for examples on what would have been better to say instead. And all started out fine, but, like many conversations that are not really conversations but small, typed, snippets of people’s reaction not just to the first question given but to other comments posted, it turned into people posting the nasty and hurtful things that had been said to them and getting their chance to blast those people for having said those things.

Now, believe me, some of the things posted on there were obviously hurtful and obviously said to that person just to be mean. But many things were taken in offense when it isn’t quite obvious that the person was trying to be hurtful. But the fact that these women still remembered them specifically is evidence (contrary to what some tried to say at the end of their post) that they were still harboring them in their hearts. And harboring them in their hearts basically to have a reason to be bitter or angry or victimized.

And don’t we all just love to have a reason to be THE VICTIM?

I mean, really, don’t we? In Western, developed society, being the victim is what will get you noticed. Gosh, I mean, if you had a great childhood them you must not have anything to talk, write, sing, or paint about, right? You have nothing to rant about. If you have had it “good” in this life (or at least it appears so because you don’t complain about every time you step in a puddle or someone cuts your off) then you just aren’t interesting, are you? Women are especially at fault for this. Just ask a group of women what their labor was like for any of their children and you will soon see a quiet intent to top each horror story. Either the epidural didn’t work or they couldn’t have it or their water broke at the grocery store or they almost didn’t make it to that hospital where the incompetent staff made a mess of their birth or they got sick afterwards or almost died or their child almost died or the food was just bad or the stupid day nurse wouldn’t let you have regular coffee, blah, blah, BLAH! I am at fault for this. Just a few months ago someone asked me where I gave birth here in Madrid and how it was. I told them the hospital and said that overall things were great there. She looked at me in horror and said she had given birth at the same hospital and had a TERRIBLE experience. My first reaction was to explain myself and give more details about the trauma I had in almost getting a C-section because…….! Then she went on to give me more details of her TERRIBLE experience while I regressed into my thoughts, regretting I had added more to my original comment.

See, I am trying not to be a victim anymore. It isn’t easy, but I am trying. I am also trying not to take offense to ever little thing that people say to me because taking offense gives me more room to victimize myself, something I am tired of doing and just want to stop.

But it isn’t easy.

It isn’t easy not to relay my life experiences in a way of playing the victim at times. Come on, it’s nice to feel validated that you have had it rough at times, right? Of course! The hardest times not to make yourself the victim is when someone else is and their story “isn’t half of what yours is” ….but I’m trying not to do that.

Why? Doing so in the past actually led to me resenting my inlaws and almost hating them. “Getting it off my chest” by complaining about their poor tack or what I thought was lack of compassion for my mothering style didn’t help, but only fueled the fire. It reassured me from the inside that I had a right to be mad, that I had a right to want them to back off, that I HAD A RIGHT…..etc!!!!! This ended in a shouting match in which I put my father-in-law in his place (“the first time anyone has ever yelled at my father,” my husband told me in a sad voice) and made problems between my husband and me. And while if you ask me I would quietly tell you that I do not regret telling him the words that I said, I do regret the way in which I did it, yelling and stomping through the house and practically slamming the door on the way out. It was childish and rude and wrong. But I had allowed all of their comments to be harbored in my heart instead of brushing them off with a quick prayer. And although things are better between my inlaws and me now, and I do give credit to my words at that time, I do know that they were harshly surprised and hurt that I thought that way about them.

So, after having long discussions with my husband and after apologizing for my actions to every member of the family I realized that I needed to change something. And the only things that I was able to change was myself. So I decided to walk in love with not only my inlaws but with every stranger in Spain who doesn’t think I should be wearing my baby in a sling or rocking my toddler to sleep or breastfeeding past such-and-such a date or gain so much weight, etc. First, I tel myself that I am choosing to live in another culture where people are more open and honest about their opinions. Second, they don’t know me from Adam nor I them so why should I care what they say? Third, I can choose to be offended or choose to blow it off, or even choose to feel sorry that this person feels that way.

You see, I think being offended is a choice. A choice many of us have to make on a daily basis. I certainly do when I am with my mother-in-law. She and I are just so different. But that is just it. I don’t think she is saying these things to be offensive. Like many people, she is just talking or trying to be funny or just trying to find something to say. Sure, there are times when she is also trying to get a point across without being too harsh and still comes across harsh. Sure. But then I do that too, apparently. Just reading through the forum post on this subject I realized that I am guilty of probably hurting or offending quite a few people in my life when I was just trying to be funny or talking just to talk. But because we don’t know what that person is going through or what possible trials they are having, etc, it is easy to offend or hurt without trying to. And it is almost as easy to show some grace and choose not to be offended.

I guess my lesson learned is that perhaps we should a) Listen a bit more and talk a bit less B) Smile, consider that the person who just spoke was not trying to be graceless, heartless b**ch.

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