About two months ago, I had one of the worst months in recent memory. And it wasn’t just that way for me, but also for a LOT of people close to me. In the span of about 3.5 weeks, I respectively supported others or was supported through:
- 4 Funerals
- 2 Divorces
- 3 Friends with difficult pregnancy/labor/delivery
- Catastrophic illness & injury of loved ones (numerous)
- A 200 mile move, and a new dual-City existence
Every obnoxious act is a cry for help. – Zig Ziglar..
At one point in that tumultuous month, a strange thing happened. It was as though one day, at the height of all the very real tragedy and psychological productions, something just broke. As I sat at my desk overwhelmed with it all, I suddenly just…wasn’t. It reminded me of the movie Office Space, where the lead character is miserable with life, undergoes hypnosis and when the hypnotherapist dies in the middle of his session he finds himself free of the BS burdens of his life. His controlling girlfriend, awful boss, dead end job-he just cannot bring himself to give a shit. It hit me-I had reached critical mass, emotional overload. I had just run out of shits to give.
And it was oh so blissful. I went to bed that night and slept solidly for the first time in weeks. I got up the next day and promptly, without hesitation, failed to have any feeling of responsibility for OPD (Other People’s Drama). I flat out refused to answer it at all, or did so minimally and only as absolutely required. And later that afternoon, the phone rang with another tragedy. While I could listen, be supportive, etc. I just could not find it within myself to truly give a shit. It was as though I was looking at my life in the third person. Part of me cared, but energetically and emotionally, I was cold. There was nothing left. I was hollow inside…and while placid and calm, it was also eerie.
Apparently bereft of shits, I went for a loooong walk in my new ‘hood of State College, Central PA and took a meandering detour past some seriously large farms. Being Spring time, there were some sizable mountains of cow patties piled up for other farms to pick up and use as fertilizer for their crops. And it hit me: shit is energy! Those heaps of shit were going to grow acres of corn. Real, edible and necessary FOOD. Later, it also occurred to me that in the wrong hands, fertilizer can also be used to make explosives. When we “give a shit”, we give our energy. When giving a shit, we can choose between fertilizing something, and feeding a fire. Where we choose to direct (or withhold) the shits we give, we choose what we wish to support (healing, our loved ones, etc) and disconnect from what we don’t (misdirected psychodrama).
Which brings us to a big question: when is it appropriate to give a shit, and when it it better to abstain? I suppose to answer that, we must explore just what is “drama” and what is a real crisis.
It’s been said that “All the world is a stage”. Let’s keep with that analogy and look at the situation in front of us as the plot of a play. Perhaps it is an ensemble cast where each character has their shortcomings and yet together manage somehow to muddle through whatever challenges or plot twists arise, a la Fried Green Tomatoes. Or, one person could see themselves as the star of the show, the hero among villains who would be exalted by the surely shortsighted cast if only they were not blinded by their very radiance. Is someone the star of a painfully introspective one-person production in which their faults, hopes, dreams and losses are laid bare and examined; a presentation so powerful and thought provoking it can’t help but force watchers to do at least a little soul searching…or rather recounting all of the times they had been done wrong, sold short, or had their praises gone unsung; falling on a sword of righteousness only to be pelted with roses by adoring audience goers as the curtains draw to a close?
Most importantly, is the play an honest portrayal or a well prepared argument…and if that latter, whom are they truly attempting to convince? Two of those plays are not realistic. Everyone has their faults. In attempting to place all of our personal crap on those around us, we put a ton of effort into not looking at those shortcomings for what they truly are. In blaming others for everything wrong in our lives, we not only push others away we also refuse to take responsibility for ourselves…and if we don’t take responsibility, there is no way we can make any changes. The story, which is a lie, will be told and retold as long as the person telling it can convince themselves it’s the truth. The easiest way to cling to that lie is if other people are reacting to it…feeding it…FERTILIZING it. When we give a shit about someone else’s dramas, we actually do a disservice both to ourselves in the form of spent energy (because we need that to help ourselves and others through their healing), and them by fertilizing the field of lies they are sowing between themselves and their real problems. As long as someone gives a shit about their drama, they are less likely to notice that the stage is nothing but make believe. We become enablers.
So what do you do when the hollering histrionics show up and try to put the marionette strings on you? Simply say no. Or, say nothing at all. Refuse to dignify crazy with a response. I know it seems rude, but really, if you are going to spend a boatload of time to argue them, you are just justifying the bullshit parade. Remember…if they don’t have an audience, there ain’t no show. Refusing to engage is the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself AND them. It is NOT your responsibility to point something out to someone who clearly does not want to see their own issues…not to mention, if we DO engage, who is to say we are not the one with drama of their own? If we really feel compelled to get entangled in their mess, maybe it’s us that needs the healing most of all.
On subsequent bus rides and long walks, I’ve reminded myself of the value of a shit not given. As the Spring gives way to Summer, I see all the crops beginning to grow, acres and acres of worthwhile shits. Just the same, I see my friends and loved ones healing, moving on, putting their lives back together. I’m happy to have been able to fertilize them, and as I start to feel more whole I am grateful that so many were willing to fertilize me when I needed it most. I don’t know what I would have done if they had spent all their shits on drama. So from now on, I am going to be careful about when and how I give a shit.
And in case you could not tell, I am from NJ, where swearing is it’s own spiritual practice. So if you are going to be all pompously New Age-y and refuse to see the forest through the trees on this post because the repeated use of the word “shit” totally harshed your mellow….guess what I don’t give? :-p