Monday, March 14

different is good

What company am I ripping that off from? I just know some company used that as their byline...

At any rate, why is it that so often "different" must equal ungood... wrong... bad? Why does something that varies from the "way we've always done things" have to mean that somehow it's wrong in every sense of the word and that the "way we've always done things" was the smart way, the right way, the best way?

I want to say that this isn't an issue that I am faced with on a daily basis. However, the more I think on it, the more I realize it is a notion I have to combat every day. Because doesn't everyone and everything in mainstream media tell us we're wrong for not doing what they tell us to do? Like our parents often told us? Or, perhaps, still do...

During the course of my stay at my parents house, one evening I was eating dinner with my stepdad, sending down my gullet the very little food I'd set out for myself (lack of appetite, gee, I wonder why) before he and I made a second trip to the hospital so that he could "give" (read: yell at and "goddammit") the nurses a "piece of his mind" (read: tell them how and why they're ways are wrong), he directed his stress and upset toward me. Understandable. I mean, I was the only living, breathing being within a five foot radius that could possibly give the satisfactory reaction he was looking for.

"I guess you just do things differently" he said. And not like "oh!" in that "a-ha, I get it, there's a difference here, tra la la" influction of the voice. Rather as in "differently" meaning wrong, dispicable, bad.

He continued on with "You know, just the way you do things. [Here he's referring to my lack of set schedules and, specifically this time around, set meals at set times throughout the day.] I hope I'm not offending you. You just... time means something to me and means something different to you..." At this point I can see he's beginning to escalate (chomping his food with extra grit, shifting in his chair) but still trying to weasel out of any guilt he might feel for being upset and lashing out.

"You do things different! Do you understand what I'm saying?!"

Oh so many options for me at this point.

As a child my response would've been "yes", trying to fight back tears and invariably scrambling to quickly shove apologies out of my mouth but inside desparately trying to figure out why I was the one who was wrong and what I did to be so wrong.

After years of therapy, years on my own, years to create my own definition of "different" and years of practicing taking it out of the context of good/bad, right/wrong, I have other options: I could point out what a jackass he's being by pinning on me his dislike of "different" or projecting onto me his stress and upset over the whole mom's-in-the-hospital situation.

Yeah, that'd go over real well. Bet he'd sit back all scholarly-like, whip out his steno, and take notes with a quill pen!

Not so much.

I could respond with some sarcastic remark about him being old and crotchety. I have run this one over in my mind. I see rapid explosions going off in response to this - most of them involving his head.

And as I sat there in that two-second flash frame that seemed like a million, I think to myself: why does my way have to be wrong and your way have to be right... why does either way have to be anything?

I take a breath and turn to my dad. "I get that we do things differently." I smile as warm as I can without letting on that in my mind his head's already spontaneously combusted. I pat his arm, excuse myself from the table and ask if I can take his plate.

Now's not the time for such an argument. And never will there be a time when such an argument (with him) would have any benefit.

But for someone who likes to keep his existence neat and tidy and "safe" inside a box, I can see why equating different with wrong and wrong with bad make sense to my dad. If it's not in the box, it's different. If it's different, it's wrong. If it's wrong, it's bad. Outside the box = different/wrong/bad.  Thus, inside the box = good.

Is that what life's really all about, though, narrowing things down to a simple equation of if something is different from me or my ways then it's undoubtedly wrong? If people have a different (better?! never!) way of living then they're just automatically wrong? How is that living?

Well, if that's the case, then there's a lot of wrong people and my dad is going to be the only one in heaven.

For his sake, I hope heaven's the size of a box.

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