First, I had you acknowledge your feelings, then set them aside. I had you recognize that you were a victim, then I urged you to stop playing the victim. I told you to not forgive cheaply, then I said you were a fool not to forgive. So, which is it? You ask. What do I want?
I want you to stay on the road to reconciliation. Here’s the thing about roads. You can drive off of a road on either side. In order to get anywhere, you’ve got to keep moving. As you move, the road changes. When you fail to recognize the changes, you go off the road, hit a tree, and stop.
There are lots of ways of going off the road to reconciliation. One way is by sticking with an official story.
As any conspiracy theorist can tell you, there’s a big difference between the official story and the real one. The official story is the corporate or governmental public relations bullshit that’s repeated so many times that it begins to pass for truth. It’s designed to tidy up the mess, reassure the public, establish the narrative, and maintain the status quo. It’s what you tell your mother after a hot date or the explanation given to a prospective employer after you walk out on your last job. It’s often not an outright lie, just a highly varnished one. It contains elements of the truth, but it’s not the truth. The truth is usually much more awkward. The official story is meant to be the last word. It’s something people tell, not to answer questions, but to stop questions from being asked.
It’s not just corporations, the government, frisky children, or disgruntled workers that employ official stories. The person who injured you does it, too. You’ve heard them. He hit you because you made him so mad. He hit you, but you hit him first. He couldn’t help but hit you because his father did it to him, too. He hit you, but he’s sorry and it taught him not to do it again. These may have all been true. What makes them official stories is when they are meant to be the last word. When they are used to shut you up.
As the victim, you have your own official story, too. You may have adopted one of his and have been perfectly content to admit that you made him so mad he hit you, or he hit you because you hit him first. You might want to let him off the hook and say that he only did what his father did. You might accept a premature apology just so you don’t have to deal with the whole thing anymore.
Or, maybe your official story is that you’re a victim, subject to a paternalistic society, without rights, resources, or recourse. You may be correct in this, but it’s an official story if you stop there and make it the last word. If you look at what happened and examine its context, then you can see the cracks and patches in the official story. You see that the official story glosses over significant exceptions and inconsistencies. The official story is not the whole story. Even a genuine truth is not the whole truth or the only truth.
You’re not just the victim and he’s not just the perpetrator. In fact, the word, just, should no longer be in your vocabulary, at least not used in a reductionistic manner that conceals the details. Remember that, while I want you to hold the offender accountable, I also want to avoid seeing you getting stuck in just being a victim. There’s more to you than that.
There’s something about us humans that makes us want to take vibrant life and engrave it in stone. We do it so we can handle it, manage it, put it in a box, and carry it without dropping it. We fixate it and then we fixate on it, trying to keep it fixed on a pin. But life is not like that. You are not like that. Life is meant to be, well, lively. So keep it moving and be suspicious of the last word on anything.
Let me say one more thing and it’ll be the last word on having the last word. I promise.
Go to your cupboard and find a single piece of simple food: a Cheerio, say. Before you pop it in your mouth, think about what it took to bring that single Cheerio to you, the context of the Cheerio, in order words. There were farmers, truckers, warehouse workers, and grocers, as well as the tractor manufacturers, fertilizer salesmen, oil rig workers, agribusiness executives, box makers, etc, that support them. Then there’s the parents, the partners, and the children of those farmers, truckers, warehouse workers, grocers, tractor manufacturers, fertilizer salesmen, oil rig workers, agribusiness executives, and cardboard box makers, as well as their teachers, doctors, lawyers, barbers, and accountants. And that’s only the people involved in the Cheerio. Don’t let me get started on the chemical properties of the cereal and the history of the elements involved. Get the point? It’s infinite. You could spend all day looking at the context of a single Cheerio, and it’s just a Cheerio.
The official story is it’s just a Cheerio. Well, if there’s a lot to a Cheerio, then imagine what there might be regarding you, the loved one who hurt you, and an incident between you.
As you can imagine, it could take you all day to eat a single Cheerio. Similarly, you could spend the rest of your life thoroughly appreciating the context of any incident between you and your loved one; you’d never be any closer to the end. That’s no good, either. Life goes on. Seeing the context is a good thing, but, at some point, you’ve got to chew and swallow the damn thing. There’s lots of ways of getting stuck on this road. One way is by thinking too much and never settling on anything.
So, here I go again, talking out of both sides of my mouth. I want you to see the context and be open to multiple interpretations; but I also want you to figure things out and close around some conclusions and resolutions, be decisive, in other words. Which is it? You ask. What do I want?
I want you to stay on the road. When you start veering over too far to one side, veer over to the other.