Saturday, 9 January 2016

Kindness and Mischief

Hello, my name is Melanie, and I'm annoying. I don't mean to be, it's a sort of side effect. I'm not really all that good at anything in particular, but I'm very good at being me. I'm so good at it, in fact, that I've come to rely on it. Apparently this isn't normal, despite what you might think. Apparently I'm supposed to be full of self-doubts and angst.

It's not that I don't give a shit about what others think. I take all feedback, as offered, consider it, and toss the unimportant stuff out the window. I have this one objective really - I try to be kind. I think it's the most important thing you can do. I like people. I don't always want to be around them, especially some of them, but I want everyone to be happy, so I just do my bit where I can.

The problem is, my nature is mischievous. I like fun. I like to laugh, and I find it very easy, because I see the funny side of most things. I like to play. I like to be silly. It just comes naturally.

And these two competing aspects of my personality have been there since day one, so it's definitely me, it's who I am. Most of the time it's OK, and then every so often it isn't. The mischief takes over.

I don't apologize because I don't think it's ever really harmful. I mean, I don't shoot people or spike their drinks (apart from that one time), and my practical jokes are very minor. The only person who has ever got physically hurt from any pranks is me, and I know when to stop with teasing. I have a good "hurt feelings" radar, and if somebody begins to look uncomfortable, I immediately stop. I wish I could teach that, actually.

What I'm trying to say, really, is that there really is a difference - and not a small one - between not giving a shit, and not giving a shit. Because the feelings of other people are not really my responsibility, unless I deliberately hurt them. The entire thing is about intent.

We talk about this a lot, one way and another. Everywhere. All of us. All of the time. We may not see it as all part of the same topic, because on one occasion we're saying "Wow, some people are really NEEDY....." and on another occasion we're saying "Politeness costs nothing". And so on.

So, it's complicated really. On the one hand we're all fed up to the teeth with those who are offended by everything, and for whom even walking on eggshells would not be enough, you'd have to levitate above them. On the other hand the world is full of arseholes who blunder about being tactless constantly, no matter how often you hint, and who are sometimes cruel. On purpose. And don't care.

Somewhere in the middle is sanity.

You know, it's a bit of a balancing act. If you are cowardly, you say little, or you become a "people pleaser". I am no good at staying quiet.

Oh, I can do it in small ways. If somebody says "What do you think......" I am perfectly capable of lying through my teeth so as not to hurt their feelings. At the very least, I hold back on what I'm really thinking. We all learn to do that, some of the time at least.

Quite often I choose to say nothing whatsoever rather than "get into it" with somebody. I mean, as much as I enjoy controversial discussions in my online world, it's different in a local social setting. Generally I follow that old maxim of making politics and religion taboo. There truly is a difference between party talk and Facebook talk. Well, if you have half a brain anyway.

Sometimes I choose to say nothing here online too. It's just not worth it with some arguments. Even when I know for certain that I'm 100% correct. Some discussions and some people just have a big sign over them saying "DON'T" to me.

This week I quietly and politely bowed out of a discussion that had dramatically changed topic, not because it had changed, but because I suddenly had a flash of realisation that the person I was talking to was compromised. I'm not quite sure how I knew, call it a hunch if you like, but it was as obvious as if the nutter on the bus had asked me to hold his camel. It made me pull back so fast, it caused others in the discussion to assume MY feelings were hurt. All sorted out now, but the point is that even silence can be a problem. It can give the wrong impression.

My son Tom, who has Asperger's, sees the world very differently to the rest of us, and sometimes finds our world, our society, our ways, very confusing. I have learned so much from him, from his "angle" that I always say he is my greatest teacher. I am quite sincere in this.

It's not unusual, if he is in an argument, to just go completely silent, because he doesn't know what to say. It isn't lack of logic, he has more of that than most of us. It's when emotion and logic are both involved and get tangled up together. He simply finds it harder than most of us to untangle it. We generally don't bother - whch is why fights start. I'm the type who carefully untangles them, to keep things calm. Tom just gets lost.

The biggest problem we have when communicating is when two "sides" are using different levels of logic and emotion. Of course, depending on intellect and mental health, people may only have limited amounts to offer. So, what happens, for me anyway, is when I am coming from a place of logic, and I see my "opponent" coming from almost pure emotion, I stop. I may change the topic, or just the tone. I may make light of it.....the joker's escape route.

They say it's better to be kind than to be right. I think this is true. I think the problem with quite a lot of people is that they forget that. And we ALL forget it from time to time.

So, why mischief?

Because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Because it lightens the mood. Because our society is crazy and we reflect that. Because there is such a thing as harmless mischief. Because being serious all the time is hard work. And boring. 

And this does matter. It's good not to care too much about how people see you. If you're too self-conscious it holds you back in so many ways. It can really be a huge problem. It can make you a victim. You don't need that. On the other hand if you are so rhino-hided that you can't see when you've gone too far, you cause harm. As always, in the middle lies balance. 

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