“I want to spare you a lot of sadness
I don’t know what he’s told you
But I can guarantee you
He doesn’t live with mother
Or what you’d call a roommate
He’s just a – I can’t say it
Poor Betty
You ask him
I’d love to hear his answer”

I was listening to this and was wondering about the truth – how we define it.  What we believe to be true.  What we shut our eyes to.  What we will never believe, regardless of who tells us, or what evidence there is.  Because, there is a certain comfort to “our truth”, to “our reality”.  Even when it is something that brings us great pain, it is nonetheless a constant – and in life, sometimes a bad constant is better than no constant at all.

The writer in me tries to conjure up a scenario that would work – some way to be heard, to break through the reality that someone else has constructed.  But then I think to myself – how easily would someone break through my reality?  Not very.  It’s a realization that forces me to listen.  And I try awfully hard to see other points of view.   I actually respect them – as I expect mine to be respected.  However, I rarely concede that I am wrong – I will dig my heels in pretty hard.  But I don’t let things go.  I mull those contrary arguments over and over in my head, and probably obsess for a few days about “what if” – not necessarily what if I am wrong, but what if someone else could be right – or at least right for them.  If my biggest fear is not being heard, my second is not hearing.  And to hear someone else, sometimes you have to not listen to yourself.

I do envy some of these others – people for whom things are black and white.  This person is a hero, this person is a villain, and let’s move on from there.  I don’t believe I see anyone in those terms – even those I don’t care for.  This way of looking at people was shifted forever after a high school reunion.  Up until that point, I typically wouldn’t be found at such an event – the people I wanted to stay in touch with, I stayed in touch with.  The others – well, I likely didn’t stay in touch with them for a reason.  But, curiosity got the better of me one year – that and the fact that I looked really good.  In high school, I saw myself as an awkward misfit.  In the intervening years, I had blossomed, gained confidence, and really liked the idea of showing up at a high school reunion as the “new me”.

What I discovered was that the new me wasn’t so different from the old me.  OK, there was one girl who cried the entire time we danced and said, “I would have been so much nicer to you if I knew you’d grow up to be so gorgeous.”  And we wonder where we get these crazy messages!  But most people saw the new me as just a slightly polished old me – I was fine then, and I was fine now.  However, looking at them, I saw many people who’s best years were behind them.  People on their second (or third) marriages.  People who relived the days of high school glory as the “good ole days”.  People who peaked in their teens.

And what I felt was love and compassion and empathy for them.  I realized they were a lot like me.  I went through those years feeling that I wasn’t being seen the way I was on the inside.  So many of my classmates were feeling that way now.  I took them off their pedestals, took myself out of that moat, and put us on equal footing.  And realized we had a whole lot more in common than I ever knew.

Since that time, some relationships grew.  But for the most part, they remain a part of my past.  The funny thing about the past – it helps define who you are today.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.

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