Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Graceless

I have a friend and colleague who occasionally reminds me that, with other people, we have to take the good with the bad.  We have to make allowances and accept that people, no matter how much we may like them, will have some traits that we do not like.  And we all know this is true.

But when I turned 50, I looked around, and I was not happy with the people surrounding me.  Friends and family, colleagues and co-workers, clients and vendors, even acquaintances.  Many of these people are not chosen, certainly not family.  Others just sort of drift into our lives and, well, stay.  Somehow.

These people, I came to realize, enjoyed our relationship on their own terms.  Terms that I had long tolerated, but never accepted.  And I always knew that if I changed these terms, then the relationship would wither and likely die.

A relationship, especially a friendship, is an honor.  We should be honored to have someone as a friend.  And grateful.  But at the same time, the reverse is true.  Others should be honored to have us as a friend.  And grateful.  There should be a certain reciprocal grace to it all.

Is this really such a high bar?  Apparently so.

So I decided, enough.  I ended my relationships with two close friends.  And I had another friend who did the ending with me; which was fine.  I stopped returning calls and messages of some others.  I severely limited new relationships of any kind.  Total house cleaning.

I never really tolerated toxic people.  But I found that avoiding toxic people was not enough for me.  I needed to rid myself of the graceless.  And the noise and clutter of the graceless.  With less noise comes more clarity.  And more focus.  On who and what is important.

Now I know what you are thinking:  Be careful, you will end up a lonely old man.  Relationships are messy by nature and we should be grateful for any of them.  But surely we, all of us, can expect some minimum level of goodwill and behavior.  Surely we owe this to ourselves.