Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's What We Bring to It

Four years ago, I thought we were having the biggest influx of wasps Utah Valley had ever seen.  It seemed that every time I ran errands, I was surrounded by wasps as I climbed in and out of my minivan.  It didn’t matter where I went—the store, the library, the post office—I was constantly dodging the little black and yellow beasts.  Strangely, when I commented to a neighbor that the wasps were really bad that year, she said she hadn’t noticed anything unusual.

One afternoon, as I waited for traffic to clear up so I could take my place in the long line of busy commuters, I noticed something odd.  A wasp was crawling out from behind the rearview mirror mounted on the side of my van.  A moment later, I saw another.  When I got home, I tilted the mirror all the way to the side and looked between the mirror casing and the mirror itself.  I was right—a wasp nest was back there. All this time, I thought wasps were everywhere, when in reality, I had been carrying them with me.

I grabbed the garden hose and squirted the mirror casing until the nest fell out, and then I squirted the other mirror, just for good measure.  And you know what—I no longer saw wasps everywhere I went.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was a perfect metaphor for life. I had been in some uncomfortable situations where I felt I was being subjected to the same negative treatment over and over again, and I wondered why everyone was “out to get me.”  It seemed that people constantly tried to take advantage of my good nature and my desire to be helpful and just ended up treating me poorly—asking for too many favors, showing a lack of respect for my time and my desires, assuming I would leap in to solve all their problems because my own weren’t as important. 

But what are the odds that everyone, everywhere, is out to get you? The fact of the matter is—if you’re in ten difficult relationships, and all ten go poorly, there’s a common denominator, and that common denominator is you.  If you’re bringing something to the relationship that’s not adding to its success, chances are, you won’t have a successful relationship.

Just like driving around with a nest of wasps on my van, I was bringing an expectation into these friendships.  “Hey, everyone takes advantage of me, so I expect that’s what you’ll do, too.”  When it happened, I was proven right, and felt justified in my expectation.

But when I started to show a little more spine and approached my relationships with the desire for fair play, my situation improved, and I felt much less victimized.  I no longer expected it, and when I felt it starting to happen, I kindly and firmly directed a change of events. I metaphorically squirted the wasps off my van and refused to bring those past negative experiences into my future with me.

Now whenever I enter a new situation, I think to myself, “What am I bringing into this with me?  Do I have the desire for fair play, and do I project that in the way I act?”  We’re told that we teach people how to treat us, and if we act like scared rabbits, we’ll be treated like scared rabbits.  If I want someone to treat me with respect, I need to behave like someone who is worth respecting, and I need to treat those around me the same way. 

It’s true that we can’t control how others behave, and we will still encounter those who seek to control and are disrespectful.  But now I know I’ve done everything I could, and I can look back on these situations and know that I brought my best self into the situation, and I can be proud of that.   But if I bring wasps, I can expect to get stung.

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Michael Knudsen said...

Excellent metaphor and very well observed. We all run into people who "brought the wasps" every day and all too often we respond by breaking open our own nest. It takes a lot of patience and maturity to leave those buggers home.

Nichole Giles said...

Good thoughts. You're right, of course. And also, I'm glad you got rid of the wasps. Sneaky little buggars!

Rachelle said...

Great insight! I love your attitude. This was a great article. :)

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