I was asked yesterday, by a mutual friend of a person I was once very close with but have - in the last almost year - had an almost entire "falling out" with, how I could be so negative and absolute and cynical in my approach to life and relationships and people (particularly that aforementioned mutual friend).
Let's be very clear. I am a grump. I am a curmudgeon. I am emotionally simple. I am glass-half-empty. I have a dark sense of humor. I have a somewhat cynical outlook but only about certain things (granted - the things I am cynical about I am totally, irreversibly cynical about). I am, however, NOT negative.
I'm a fan of Josh Groban, Michael Buble, and Madame Dion (don't you call her Celine - you don't know her like that). My favorite shoes are penny loafers. I buy no-sugar-added Nesquik at QuikTrip and chug the bottle on the walk to the car. I knit. I love (and still miss) Psych. I adore work and rarely say "no" to a new challenge or opportunity and am the head of our employee activity committee. I hug people (especially women). I carry Crayola crayons in my car and carry-on luggage and have them in almost every room of the house and in my office. I have erupted in (happy) tears while watching YouTube clips and sitting in my temple/sanctuary. I cheer for my ex-wife. I have a guinea pig. tell stories to anyone that will listen. I smile - more and more often all the time. None of these are the traits, leanings, or behaviors of a negative person (and, no, I'm not over-compensating).
But the one adjective that I will happily accept as a label is that I am absolute. I don't believe that people can or will or should "change" and I don't believe that people ever say things they don't mean (perhaps they don't mean to say them but they mean what they say). I sleep very well at night knowing that my personality is not for everyone and that I am my very own person and that I don't hide or pretend or camouflage myself for the comfort of others. Most importantly? I don't waste my time with other people.
What does that mean? I adopted this "rule" when I was about twelve-years-old and I still live by it today. I call it the 51% rule. Here is how it plays . . .
- You have a sound-enough sense of "self" to put people in your life in categories and you know the difference between "friends" and "pals" and those you "love" and those you "enjoy", etc.
- You have a relationship with someone that has a label (friend, colleague, acquaintance, employer, clergy, enabler, dealer, etc.). They must be someone that is "classifiable" for this rule to work (you can't include the barista at Starbucks that puts raw sugar in your flat white every time you ask for it with Splenda because they truly don't seem to understand the difference).
- You allow a dynamic to play out between you and the other person. It has to be based on the appropriate level of trust, respect, honesty, and lust (in relation to intimate relationships - it is relevant, like it or not) and it has to allow for good days and bad days. We're talking a dynamic based on the law of averages.
- As long as that person provides you (and you provide THEM) positive thoughts and interactions 51% of the time or more - you keep them in that category and dynamic and presume they will keep you there as well.
- The minute that dynamic hits 100% of the time (and stays that high for a period of time) you move them UP a level on your hierarchy.
- The minute that dynamic hits 50% or less and stays there for an appropriate amount of time, you move them DOWN a level on your hierarchy. Your wife becomes your ex-wife, your "besty" becomes your "best friend from X phase of your (past) life", and your mail carrier becomes - well - they stay your mail carrier. You should not have an actual relationship with your mail carrier (unless they fit in to another category and happen to bring you your lingerie catalogs, too)
- The minute that person drops a few rungs on the ladder - you cut them. You absolutely cut them. You don't burn the bridge. You don't go nuclear. You don't minimize yourself and nurture tension or anger or hatred. You simply . . . walk away.
- You always keep yourself available to that person (presuming your safety and sanity can allow for it) and you help them when/where you can (if they ever meant anything to you - they should still mean something when/if in true crisis) and you try to allow that they might, in time (if you and they get on the same page - please note that I don't think these things are ever truly one sided) get back in to a category/relationship worth nurturing but you walk away. You acknowledge that person is worse for you than they are good (and, perhaps, you for them) and you walk away