In our current atmosphere of mistrust and social divisiveness, I have recently felt compelled to take a good hard look at my own personal beliefs; a spiritual journey of discovery, if you will. What I found might surprise you.
Or, probably not.
The dictionary definition of prejudice is: “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” And – although I would argue that they are not completely without reason – I must admit that I have my own biases and irrational views about certain groups of people. There is one group in particular that I have found I dislike intensely, and despite my attempts to be more accepting, I still can’t stand being around them.
I call them “others.”
Who are others? Short answer: If they are “not me,” then they are “others.”
Others are terrible people, and they have no goals in life except to make me miserable. I try to stay away from others, but they always seem to turn up no matter where I go. They are everywhere. If I drive somewhere, others are on the roadway trying to crash into my car or merging into my lane just to slow me down. If I go to the grocery store, they park their carts in the middle of the aisles so I can’t get by.
When I go to the movies, others show up. Not just the blockbusters and new releases, either. I go to movies that have already been in the theaters for months and are currently being screened in a janitor’s closet with three swivel chairs to sit in. But there is always an other in there with me. Usually talking on his cell phone or unwrapping candy he snuck into the building in his pockets.
Others find me in gas stations, restaurants, stores, and even public bathrooms. Apparently, they have an amazing communications network, because they always know where to find me, no matter where I attempt to hide. It is as if they have some kind of psychic ability that tells them where I am and how they can best irritate the crap out of me. It can’t be coincidence.
Last year, I took a trip to Norway. I figured if I left the country I might finally get a brief respite, but no such luck. The plane I took to get there was absolutely packed with others. And, when I landed, guess what I found. Yup. They all spoke a different language and pretended not to know me, but that didn’t fool me for a second. I knew who they were as soon as I saw them.
There is no avoiding them. And, believe me, I’ve tried.
People come over to my house all the time and comment how much they like the pond I have outside in the front yard. They think it is decorative and pretty, and they ask me why I decided to build it. I never tell them the truth. I never tell them that it isn’t really a pond at all, but rather an incomplete moat. I had to stop digging it when I foolishly left my blueprints for the drawbridge and portcullis sitting on my desk where my wife found them. I think there were also some notes on the front page about the pros and cons of crocodiles vs. sharks. She made me stop the project immediately.
Now, we have a pond.
My wife is an other, by the way. There is no disputing that. She clearly fits the category, however I have had to make allowances for her. Just like any good parasite needs a host, I need her. She completes me.
To clarify, I do not mean that sentence to sound like some sappy movie, pick-up line. I literally mean that she keeps me from falling apart and shattering into little mental pieces. She frequently reminds me to eat, to bathe, and to occasionally leave the house. She is also the one that, when I take what is left of my fragile sanity and toss it in the garbage can, takes it out, dusts it off, and places it back on the shelf where it belongs.
Without her around constantly telling me to stop acting like a complete psycho, I would probably end up living alone, boarded up in a cabin in the woods, and writing my manifesto.
Or, maybe a blog? Well … let’s not delve too deeply into that one.
As far as the kids go, they only get a pass because they are literally part me. They are, however, also part other, so they are walking on thin ice most of the time. And, now that they are both going off to college in the fall, they will probably be more like others than ever before. It has already started happening with the older one. She is more other every year and, if she is not careful, she is going to come home one day to find all of her belongings in the moat … er, I mean, the pond.
Anyway, it is clear to me that others are not going to go away anytime soon. After all, there are way more of them than me. I have to learn to accept this and, although they don’t deserve it, I need to be more tolerant of their presence. It won’t be easy, but I know that it is the right thing to do.
At least until I figure out how to keep sharks alive in fresh water.