“It’s just how I am…”

My first thought about posting this particular piece was that it isn’t in keeping with the time of year. But today I am thinking of all the people who are alone this time of year, who have fallen off Christmas card lists, of those no one realizes have no happy family to gather with in the holiday season. And I am thinking, maybe it is a very good time to post this.

Times have changed with technology and the pace with which we lead our lives: People wander off from online conversations without a farewell to let you know the conversation is over. People have meals with other people and never make eye contact because they are immersed in their separate worlds–It used to be newspapers or books, now it’s electronics. Real attention, real contact is fleeting, and old traditional courtesies of a slower-paced age are unknown, forgotten or just disregarded. Everything is multi-tasked, including friendship.

People excuse themselves (“It’s just how I am”) for neglecting relationships, as if long times without contact don’t damage a relationship.

I can’t help believing that if someone wants to stay in touch, they will. I used to put out reminders, to chase down the people I wanted to have in my life. Then I got it: If someone wants me in their life, they will make some effort to have me there. And if they don’t, it’s because they don’t care that much about whether I’m part of their life, or not. Maybe they even really don’t want to know me. How would I know which it is? Silence explains nothing, is always open to interpretation.

I think we all know when we have neglected someone we should not have. I think we get guilty, yet maintain the habit of postponing, forgetting, getting distracted, and to assuage the guilt, forgive ourselves with, “It’s just the way I am,” and “My friends will understand.” And, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Sorry, it is not ever just about you: a relationship is not just about one person’s needs and foibles, or just one person being called upon to tolerate, accept and forgive.

I saw a quote recently, unattributed, but to the point: “When someone says you hurt them, you don’t get to decide you didn’t.”

It’s just the way I am” is a lame way to fend off the knowledge that somehow, something you did or didn’t do, hurt someone. It’s another way of saying, “Whatever…” Whether it comes from embarrassment or guilt or true indifference, it’s lame.

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