I’m an older woman, pushing middle age hard and fast. Unlike some people it doesn’t bother me at all to be “this” old. I don’t feel like death is knocking on my door or anything and I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me enough times to not be worried about what the future holds. What comes, comes. What doesn’t, wasn’t meant to be.
The only thing that bothers me is not understanding the culture of the world I live in and work in. I’m constantly baffled by interactions with other people. One day things are great and the next they aren’t and I have no idea why or what I’ve done. I especially do NOT understand the mentality of Twitter. How anyone can possibly ever know who anyone else is no matter how many 140 character blurbs are posted is beyond me. I just don’t get it.
I asked someone this past week for a bit of advice on a matter that was concerning me. Their answer was non-committal and rambled on about something called a zero-sum life, tit for tat they mentioned, not owing anyone anything. This person was quite a bit younger than me … not quite young enough to be my child but almost … so I found myself wondering if this is a generational thing, an attitude of the 30-something’s generation. And I’ve found myself dwelling on it.
It seems like such a sad idea. Not cold really, just missing some of the vital components that make life … life. Humans aren’t machines that can be tallied out at the end of the day. You can’t force someone to ever love you so how would you ever make that sum equal zero? If you’re hurt by something someone else did, how can you ever know for certain that it wasn’t a misunderstanding? Do you just hurt them back and hope that makes it all cancel out? Where does compassion fit in this scheme?
Life is hard. Kick-you-in-the-gut leave you bleeding in the road penniless and naked hard. People need choices, options, compassion, room to make mistakes without feeling like all hope is gone. Room to stand up after they’ve fallen down. A path to make things right again.
Thinking you can zero out your relationships with someone else misses the whole point of humanity in the first place.
I am an introvert. I could sit in my garden with my goats and chickens on 40 acres for weeks at a time without ever seeing another soul and be perfectly content. I really understand what “having my space” means. But even I realize that I could never live alone independent of the rest of the world for very long. Humans aren’t meant to be alone. They are meant to connect with others.
But to connect means there will always be a give and take. Equality, a zero sum life, might happen in business (though I doubt it really ever does for long) but not with humans.
I was raised with a mother that worked a job, had a college education, as did her mother before her. In an age where mom’s stayed home and took care of the kids, mine didn’t. I was always expected to do whatever needed to be done irregardless of my gender. My dad didn’t wish for sons when he got daughters, he just carried on. We fished, hunted, played ball, and went to dances all in equal quantity. I never learned girls couldn’t do things just because they were girls.
I was also raised in a home where all nationalities, religions, and races were welcome without a thought. Prejudice was not part of my upbringing. Friends were friends and meant to be treasured and cared for and learned from.
But to say that we were all the same would be a mistake, and I think a huge tragedy.
Every single person on the face of the planet has something to offer that is a combination of who they are, what they believe, how they think, what their experiences have been. So how could you ever put a value on what they have to give or trade in comparison with what you have to give or trade? The outcomes can never be the same thing.
And that doesn’t even begin to approach the emotional set of circumstances we all live with. How do you measure one person’s hurt feelings against another’s? How do make someone love you to even the books? It can’t be done.
It shouldn’t be done.
In the end we aren’t a zero sum balance. Our lives mean something to someone somewhere even if we never know it and if we don’t know it how can we ever pay them back?
This week I chose to walk away from someone. Someone who made a huge difference in my life … the difference between life and death. They don’t know it because I chose not to burden them with that. They have their own demons to face. But for me it is a debt that will never be zeroed out. It can’t be. I could never do enough and that was too great of a burden for me to carry or to ask them to carry. So I let go, even though my heart was screaming for me to hang on. And all I can do now is hope that someone, somewhere will be for him what he was for me … and that maybe some day we’ll meet again.
Life is no game that can be won or lost. Score isn’t being kept. Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. The world will be a better place.