The Wrong End of the Stick

I’m a private person.

Okay, that may seem like a funny thing for a person who’s writing a public blog to say, but it really is true. On my blog I choose what I write. I choose what words, what stories, what pieces and bits of reality I will share or not share with you. When you read my blog, you are in essence viewing a play or reading a book with limited character knowledge. My entries are snippets of my life and thoughts.

I have been reminded recently, because of our limited knowledge of others “real” lives, how easy it can be to grab the wrong end of the stick and whack ourselves in the head.

I can count on one hand the number of people who actually know what my life is like and three of those people live with me. It’s their life, too. And even though we live together, we all have our own viewpoints on the things that happen. I am typically the pessimist. If something can go wrong, I will plan for it … even if it never goes wrong. My husband, on the other hand, is an eternal optimist. Even when the world is crashing about his ears he’s still cracking jokes and figuring out what he’ll do with his imaginary lottery winnings. My daughter … well I’ll let her and my son tell their own stories when they want to.

Reading a person’s blog or Facebook posts or comments on Twitter is much like reading a novel. Maybe a real life novel, but a novel all the same. When authors write fiction, we create characters. The depth and breadth of a character is limited only by imagination and yet, authors tend to use set standards and formats as boundaries for their characters. We have lists we use and fill out. We know their birthdays, their favorite color, and what they did for vacation as a child.

Even if none of those things never show up in the novel at all. Those tidbits of information combine to drive a characters actions and dialog within a story. It’s important for an author to understand that Bernard hates his mother because of disagreement that occurred when he was 11 over what shoes to wear to school, even if Bernard is now 63 and his mother is dead because that event, like all events in a person’s life, mattered to them.

And what matters to you, changes you. It affects you. It influences how you think about the world. And how you interact with other people.

How you interact with your family … well that all boils down to how big of a stick you have.

There’s that stick again.

The point is no one is one thing, one moment in time, one conversation, one disagreement, one celebration, one thought, one word, one deed.

When someone does something that shocks you or disturbs you or causes your blood to boil, just stop and remember that this is a single moment in time, not the sum total of who that other person is. And most people, I figure, are like me. Private. They aren’t going to share every detail of their lives with you. Your knowledge of their character will be limited to the scenes and dialog they choose to share.

Don’t go grabbing the wrong end of the stick. You may be the one who ends up with the black eye.

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