(Note, this post was originally written on January 8th, 2006. I changed the date because I wanted to have it be the first official non-announcement post of searchingforhappy.net.)
A few days ago, two co-workers and I were discussing the concept of turning points in people’s lives. We also talked about how someone could create a major turning point in your life, without knowing that they are permanently connected to you in such a profound way.
I got thinking about what turning points I’ve had in my life and I had trouble at first. This bothered me cuz it made me worry that I had had no turning points and I wasn’t evolving as a person. I then realized that that was silly, since everyone has turning points, but still couldn’t think of anything.
A few days after that conversation, I had a major disappointment. I was really upset. I talked to Sean about it (and a few others, but in less detail), but I tried to keep the conversations to a minimum so I wouldn’t dwell on the disappointment and make it worse. I have a tendency to overthink things and make them bigger than they are.
After a day or so of this, I remembered a piece of advice that my mom gave me somewhat unintentionally. Three words that have the power to deflate the largest of disappointments, hurts and he-said, she-said drama.
“Consider the source.”
Let me put some perspective behind this. My mom ended up saying this to me after a tense moment during a Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house a few years back. One of my stepbrothers, who doesn’t have the greatest relationship with my mother or his father, said to her “Wow, your cooking skills have really improved.” Now, my mom has always prepared holiday dinners held at her home, and they have always consisted of the same dishes, that haven’t changed since long before he was taking part in those dinners. The rest of us all looked around at each other trying to veil our shock at such a lack of tact. My mom, who “won’t say shit if her mouth is full of it” (her words), didn’t say anything about it, and the dinner continued as if no one had made such an insensitive comment in front of the entire family. I was furious, but being like my mother, opted not to say anything either. (I like to think it is a sense of grace that keeps the two of us from saying anything, rather than being a doormat or a wimp.)
Later, when we had a moment to ourselves, I asked her why she didn’t call him on his commment during dinner. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Melissa, consider the source. We know what he’s like, and we can’t change him, so what’s the point in saying anything. He won’t listen to it anyway!” I agreed with her, and the conversation stopped.
The phrase has stuck with me since then, and I do my best to invoke it when bad things happen. Considering the source of a problem, or a hurt, or a disappointment reminds me of the back story of those sources. My stepbrother is a jerk and expecting anything else from him is a sure-fire path to disappointment and frustration. Remembering that he is a jerk softens the hurt of anything he says. It’s not okay that he has said it, but it puts less value on what he says.
Once I considered the source of my latest disappointment, the disappointment lessened as I remembered things that should have told me far in advance not to expect anything but disappointment. I still didn’t get what I wanted, but knowing why made me feel better.