The Five Stages of Grievances

This is for all you “normal” people out there.

Truth is, everyone is messed up. We’re all trying to figure out how to live as we live among each other. Many people will figure out how to behave in a way that works for the majority of society. They can talk to people and work with them in the way most people expect and accept. But what happens to those who can’t figure it out?

What do you do with the guy who sits alone at lunch because no one wants be around him? What do you do for the gal who everyone thinks will embarrass herself every time she speaks? It can be hard to know what to do when working with those who are hard to interact with. The least you can do is not cause them any needless grief.

I’ve noticed five stages to how people deal with those who behave differently from the crowd. These stages are not in any particular order and are meant to encourage observation more than defining a set pattern of behavior.

Denial

The simplest way to deal with a problem is to not deal with it. Deny anyone from being a part of your life. Their troubles won’t become yours.  No risks to take. Just avoid talking with anyone who behaves differently or who needs help.

Anger

Take your frustrations out on others. When people are hard to work with you can constantly remind them how upset you are with their behavior. Make a point of assigning blame to anyone who goes against how you think people are supposed to act.

Bargaining

Try fixing people. Your efforts may be rewarded if you invest time in making people change. You can bring them to visit specialists or buy books for them to read. Treat people like projects instead of as thinking and feeling individuals.

Depression

Feel powerless and hopeless. Equate the whole situation with negativity. Focus on your own woes even though the other person is probably going through a harder time than you.

Acceptance

Come to the conclusion that differences are part of life. Take courage in the thought that you can find common ground with anyone. Have hope that any problems can be faced with maturity and positivity. Accept someone and maybe they will accept you as you are.

The grievances mentioned here are just a few ways people separate themselves from struggling individuals by becoming another challenge for them to overcome. My hope is that people can find a way to be a positive force for those in need. Be a relief to those with grief.

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They That Be With Us

Friends of mine will often say they don’t have any friends. Rude.

Friends come in many different flavors. We crave the kind that satisfies our current needs. Sometimes you need friends to spend quality time with. Other times you need a shoulder to cry on. It’s rare to find a single friend who can meet all of your needs.

Personally, I have plenty of casual friends. They love to chew the fat and that is pretty much it. They see me when I happen to be around and our time together is limited to what is convenient. I’ll make friends like this in class or at work and when it is time to leave the friendship goes with it. Out goes the baby with the bathwater.

It’s a small group of friends I have that will make an effort to stay in contact with me. I don’t receive phone calls all that often and friends that do call me up sometimes stop when their other friends take up more of their time. When they start dating I cease to exist as far as they’re concerned.

My two best friends go beyond any of these previous descriptions. The reason they are the best is because they show an interest in me as a person. They care about Joseph. Most people make me feel like I am just a detail in their lives. My best friends make me feel like I hold a special place in it.

Friendships are expressed in as many ways as there are people. We can be friends to people or we can be friends with them. I’m grateful for any amount of friendship people are willing to offer. My hope is that my friends will realize just how much their friend cares about them.

Getting Ready Player One

Sometimes those who struggle to work with other human beings are the most human of them all.

Ready Player One is a movie about the things that connect us as individuals to one another. Our mutual interests help to bind all people together. However, many forget that the interest you have in common with others is not as important as finding an interest in others.

People are more important than things. My own interests include movies, books, video games, music, and a slew of other things, but I would trade it all away just to be with the best people. We are meant to have meaningful experiences in life. It would be a shame just to absorb information only to close ourselves off to everyone else.

A central character in Ready Player One is James Halliday. The audience gets to know this character from his reputation instead of by him interacting with others. His own interests are what every person seems to focus on in the film. It’s not until the main characters begin to understand who Halliday is as a person that they find the answers they are looking for.

Halliday is portrayed very well by actor Mark Rylance. The character is shown to have behavioral quirks, but that is not the most interesting part about the character. The film shows him as being simply a man. He doesn’t come off as some super genius or as a victim. The movie doesn’t use the old cliches when it comes to those with behavioral quirks. Halliday represents all of us. A person trying to connect to someone.

Not everyone is going to get this movie. Not everyone understands what it means to make your own world big enough to hold all your dreams but not enough room for other people. Some will get it, though. I hope they take an interest in the people around them. They are much more interesting than anything anyone can make up.

An Offering You Can Refuse

Everything begins with an offering.

In ancient times a person would step up to an altar and offer up whatever was acceptable for pleasing the gods; a sacrificial animal, fruits from the field, or even human blood. The type of offering depended on which deity you were trying to impress.

Nowadays we mostly try to impress each other. Our public behavior is greatly informed by what we think will get a good reaction from others. In other words, we say and do things to get people to treat us better.

My whole life has been spent trying to craft the greatest persona I can think of. A person who is intelligent, talented, and kind. Surely people would want to associate with a man like that, right? Unfortunately, not everyone values what I can offer.

It’s perfectly reasonable to expect an offering. Imagine if someone said they wanted to be your friend without expending any effort on their part. What would you say to them? I’ve had to tell a few people to get lost who thought I should be their friend simply because they want me to be. What is the value of a friendship unearned?

Just to be clear, we should be friends to all. You just can’t be friends with everyone. You can only offer so much of yourself. People often try to offer more than what they are. They think if the offering is grand then the return must also be grand. I’ve learned better.

An offering means something different coming from different people. A certain person saying I love you may sound a bit trite but from another person it could be a revelation. A diamond ring from a well-to-do man may not have the same impact as a favored candy bar from the friend who knows you best. It’s not about the offering itself. It’s about the act of offering.

We look for those who will offer something of themselves that will show us who they truly are. Offerings are just a means to an end. This is all done to find those we can offer ourselves up completely to. Preferably to those who feel we’re worth something special.

Invisible Men

As you can see, I am invisible.

Being invisible has its perks. People will leave you alone, you don’t have to put on a show for anyone, and you can come and go as you please. However, it can get hard in ways you can’t see.

Invisibility comes in handy as a child. While the grownups talk to each other about boring stuff you can slip away to play. Most adults don’t pay attention to what the children are up to. That was fine for me. Adults usually try to take control of everything anyway. I never needed anyone to see me to do what I wanted to do.

School was more tricky. You start to care about who notices you. Invisibility is nice if you’re trying to avoid being a target for judgment and ridicule. However, you become a target for bullying if the bullies think no one will help you. You can’t help someone you can’t see.

As an adult invisibility becomes a natural part of life. You become a name and a number slipped onto a bunch of different lists held by businesses, the government, and various other organizations. You’ll work alongside people for months and years who won’t notice if you resign. You’ll create works of art that will never have an audience.

Nearly every great man or woman begins invisible. Someone eventually takes the time to notice them and then gives them the opportunity to be seen by others. Critics will often complain about who deserves to be be visible or not. Personally, I don’t think being visible should be seen as a privilege. That makes being invisible seem like a punishment.

If being invisible is the circumstance I am dealt, then so be it. I’ll make it work no matter what I face. But what do I do for those I see who are also invisible? I see people sitting alone in the same room as me. Do they want me to not notice them? I walk by people who avoid making eye contact. Is there some sort of unspoken agreement not to acknowledge the people we meet in life?

People are invisible when we allow them to be. It wears off when you tell someone you miss them. You can’t be invisible if people look forward to seeing you. It’s destroyed when you greet someone you don’t know. You can’t be see-through when people prefer you as a friend rather than a stranger. Being invisible may be a super power to some, but seeing people seems like a pretty special talent to me.

I Feel

Many people try to tell you how to feel. I say, why not feel everything?

Feelings help us to perceive reality. Our physical senses can perceive hot, cold, soft, and hard. Our emotions allow us to perceive good, bad, beautiful, and terrible. So if you limit the kind of feelings you experience you consequently limit the reality you can perceive.

I often encounter people trying to control what they are feeling. Why? Feelings are indicators of what is happening around you and inside you. If you are feeling sad, then something is causing you to feel that way. Why would you ignore what you are feeling? It does no good to pretend you are alright when your feelings say otherwise.

What would happen if you only felt positive feelings? You might fail to see things that need improvement in your life because you are so focused on the good things. You might fail to see what is negatively affecting other people in their own lives. No one can exercise sound judgment if they ignore half of what is going on around them. You have to consider the good and the bad to see all truth.

Be willing to experience a wide range of emotion. This will provide a higher level of understanding. Mourn when life pushes you down. Rejoice when life smiles at you. Doing so will connect you to others. You’ll experience what they are living. You’ll perceive a reality outside of yourself.

Persona of Interest

Remember to be yourself. Just maybe not all at once.

Life shuffles up the people in my life fairly regularly. Each new job or new class starts over the process of meeting people, forming opinions about them, and deciding how much time and attention I’m going to give them. On my end, I make things easy for people. As long as you’re no one’s bully I’m your new best friend.

For other people they each have their own way of handling new social situations. Many people like to critique everyone they meet. They label each person in a group and that label influences the group to treat any one individual with a set amount of respect. What would you do if everyone told you to stay away from the one guy who sits alone because they say he has problems? Would you defy the group to reach out to the one?

This is unfortunate because most people I meet are terrible judges of people. The ones doing the labeling never take time to get to know the person. And their labels are usually based on quick impressions they made by scanning a few tiny details. Most of these people don’t even feel a need to talk to someone before passing final judgement on them.

What is my defense against being labeled? It would be nice to enter new social settings without being pigeonholed for once. Nearly every setting I’ve been in has contained at least one person who would have some instant dislike for me. And I have never had anyone defend my good name against my attackers.

My only defense has been to lay low. I’ll enter a new area and limit my interactions with people down to the necessities. I won’t share my world views with them so they won’t have any group to relegate me to. I’ll keep details of my personal life to myself so their preconceived notions won’t kick in. This strategy won’t make me look impressive to anyone, but I’d rather be an extra in the background than be criticized for not meeting people’s arbitrary standards.

I want to walk into new situations and just be accepted. No hoops to jump through. No having to prove myself to anyone. Just meet people and then work together. No need to overthink it. The best I can do is not make it hard for people to join whatever group I find myself in. Sociality shouldn’t be a challenge. The only requirement for it should be showing up.