This is not about lowering standards, convictions or expectations that I have for myself. It is about lowering the expectations I have for others. And in the process, allowing people to be the marvelous creation they were meant to be.
Not long ago, I was at a parade. We were running late, as per usual. It’s one of my annoying quirks that Husband has had to live with. Since he’s not all that early for things himself, it hasn’t been too hard for him to forgive. Our daughter was in the parade, so there was the extra incentive that day to get a good spot to sit. In the back of my mind, I was secretly hoping for a good spot with some shade. I am Casper’s second cousin. And since I burn just looking at a night light, I knew I would need a tree within the vicinity of where we perched our hats.
We had arranged to meet family at a central spot. And when we got there, I realized that everyone had convened already on the curb. Although there was a tree back away from the road, everyone was directly in the sun, at a great vantage point to view the parade.
I immediately started to panic. I secretly berated myself for not having gotten there early to pick the spot. I also knew that the prospect of me ever arriving early to anything in life was next to nil. So, I was stuck. Trying to adjust to a parade perch that I knew would toast my pasty skin to a tone akin to the shade of neon fuschia. Kill me now.
I did try. I sat in the sun for a few minutes. I twisted and turned. I started to panic. And then I did the inevitable. I picked my chair up and moved it back away from the rest of our party. I isolated myself. I made myself look anti-social. I appeared for all intents and purposes like a ‘sook’. That is, I didn’t get the spot I wanted, so I ‘up and moved’.
But in my mind, I was so stressed about being burned- about looking like a piece of crispy bacon on a BLT- that I chose the worse of the two evils. I chose to be the social pariah.
I later talked to my Mom about this. I apologized. I explained where I was coming from. She understood. She said she knows me and she put two and two together.
But not everyone gets my little quirks. And sometimes those little quirks are the game changers. They are the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
All round us- in every social setting from private to public are people that do irritating little things that make us bristle. They might be late for everything. They might sniffle their noses and wipe it on the back of their hand. They might be OCD and clean up behind you every time you move a thing out of place. They might not be adept at social cues and be prone to always saying the wrong thing. They might be hypochondriacs and think that a touch of sun is going to turn them into a prune.
There are people that butter their toast on the wrong side. And these people are extremely annoying.
And don’t you find, sometimes, as I do: that people are just not quite as easy to get along with, quite so easy-going and agreeable- that people are not quite so pleasant and perfect as say…I am?
People are irritating, and of course, as I tell myself: I am not so irritating. That is, I understand myself. I know why I do the things I do. I know all my idiosyncrasies. I understand my faults. I know my own weaknesses and I can accept them. But in other people? It is so much harder.
All I am saying is this: we cannot hold people to high, far-flung expectations and expect them to not be people. Being a person means being unique, individual. It means having both strengths and faults. It means being weird and wonderful both at one and the same time. It means doing profound beautiful things and sometimes doing ugly, terrible things. It means being both strange and incredible. That is a human.
And we know this about ourselves. We know that we are both strange and incredible. And we love ourselves anyway. We accept the weird and the wonderful about ourselves. We believe in ourselves.
We just can’t always seem to do this when it comes to other people. Even those people in our private lives. It is just that much harder to accept the weird and wonderful when it comes to our immediate and extended family. When it comes to our spouse. When it comes to our children When it comes to our in-laws. And even if we are that accepting, understanding kind of person that believes in the good in those people we truly love, it is admittedly just a little bit harder to love those on the periphery of our experience- the people we work and play with. The people we interact with in our public lives. The people we meet in stores, in schools and in church and in our social circles. Those people are harder to accept- it just seems sometimes that we focus on the weird and forget the wonderful. We forget that they are a son or a daughter or a wife or a husband. That they are a PERSON. We forget that someone somewhere loves them. Someone somewhere accepts them. And someone somewhere sees them as the wonderful, marvelous person they truly are. Quirks and all.
We have to lower our expectations of people. It is just not fair to expect people to be perfect in all the ways we see ourselves as “perfect”. That is, it is not fair to expect people to not have faults. To not have a little weird in them. We all have a little weird in us. And some of us have a lot.
I have always focused more on the weird in myself. I have a strong, TYPE A personality that people often mistake for being uptight, cold and self-absorbed. I am a hypochondriac. I am OCD. I am a control freak. I am self-conscious. I am a screamer. I have a hard time with letting people in- in my home, in my heart and into my soul. I have a multitude of faults. I am working on them.
But I am more than all these things. I am a dreamer. I am a listener. I have a big heart. I love to give and I thrive on making people happy. I love to connect with people in real ways. I love to write, to create, to explore. And I am willing to change those things about myself that act as obstacles between myself and others.
If all you saw in me was the latter- was my ‘weird’, you would miss the former. You’d miss my wonderful. And if all I saw in the people I meet and interact with was their ‘weird’, I would miss out on the greatest gift of life: seeing the good in people. Seeing the glass as half full. Seeing people as marvelous, amazing creations worthy of understanding and appreciating.
And people are always worth the effort it takes to find the wonderful. And they are also worth making the change to lower the unfair standards we hold them to so as to make this possible