Last week was a week. Events transpired, and it is over. Many colleagues greeted me with welcome backs and questions about how I have been when I returned to work after vacation. I did not want to default to chaos. My coach Iza Dabek said something to me that has resonated; “I have to or I choose to.” I chose an ambitious week and had many small wins to celebrate. I am also living with the consequences of my choices. Not all are good, but I am not helpless or a victim. Sometimes you have to embrace the suck, as the military would say. I meant to follow my typical format for this blog, but I want to explore communication.
I came across an essay written by Mona Eltahawy called “Why I Say “F*CK” on Twitter. The author felt that it was an empowering act to dismantle the patriarchy. If you know me now (I can’t vouch for the college years), you know that I very rarely curse. I do not believe myself to be virtuous, nor do I look down on people who swear, but I wondered if it was how I am or if it was conditioning. My book club provided tremendous insight. We read and discuss books to help us navigate social justice and to have honest conversations to help us reflect and grow. I asked them why, when racism is so ugly, are we encouraged to be civil. One of the members said she felt that if we are polite, nobody can say anything bad about us. When we are angry, even if it is justifiable, it gives “them” an excuse. A character in one of our stories did just that, and the people who mistreated them finally felt remorse years later.
I also just started reading a book called “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall B. Rosenberg. In the introduction, Deepak Chopra noted that we have normalized violence, and to think differently is seen as abnormal. I was speaking to my husband about a conversation that Jonathan Mahan hosted with a Libertarian. I have not finished it, but I did note that they came away with a deeper understanding when both parties entered the conversation with curiosity and respect. I also listened with interest and found that some of the opposing points of view made sense.
Bringing this conversation back to choice, I have a choice about how I interact with people. I am trying to choose to see the humanity of other people even if they disagree with me. You may disagree with my approach, and that is fine. You do you. I feel that inflicting harm is a two-way street and that killing is unnatural. For example, when you put down a rabid dog even though it is necessary, there is a sense of remorse. If the dog was a beloved family member before the infection, there is grief. If you did not have a personal relationship with the rabid animal, it might have been a parent, or other animals in the community may have relied on it.
I am not saying that we should never be angry or hurt or sad. I think our response to the pain can be nuanced and not cause more pain. Most physicians take an oath to “Do no harm.” I always seem to harm myself when I try and lash out at others. My experience has been much better outcomes when I try and see the humanity of others. I am trying to figure this out because I do not think being civil has to result in my being a punching bag. What will you choose?