This isn’t your normal Christmas essay from me. And I am talking about some things that are deeply personal for me. I worry about that when I write these posts – that someone I care deeply about will think that I’m trying to hurt them.
But I’m not. You have to take that much on faith, that I mean no harm.
Which is the point of this.
There’s two posts from last week (How Not To Weaponize Your Desires and The Worst Thing About Bad Transitions) that Ferret made. And like many of his posts, I agree with large chunks of them. He often talks about ways to avoid getting into problematic relationships – like this one, The Instincts I Should Act On.
But when you’re already in a relationship, it can be problematic to read well-intentioned (and well-written) posts like these.
They are predicated on the assumption that what you see is really what’s happening. They are predicated on the assumption that you know what will happen.
And making that assumption can destroy things just as easily.
It is easy to believe in what Dan Savage calls “worst case scenario disorder“. And the way Dan uses it, WCSD makes sense. When he uses it now (as he mentioned in last week’s Lovecast), he thinks about what the worst possible outcome might be. That way he’s not surprised by it, or has a contingency plan if it does happen.
That makes sense. You do want to have alternatives when things go bad. You do wish to know what you can do if something catastrophic happens. That’s a healthy way to deal with your fears.
It is a very short small step from being prepared for your fears to always seeing your fears.
If you start from the assumption that your fears are reality, then you will always see your fears. It will be hard – if not impossible – to see things as anything but your fears. It’s the Law of Fives (or if you’re a pink, confirmation bias, a type of confirmation bias).
We are all fallible people. It wouldn’t be hard to look at anyone’s behavior and explain it in the most awful way. It’s all in the way you choose to interpret their behavior.
Like many horrible things about human behavior, we turn it into running jokes in sitcoms. When the spouse is unexpectedly nice, the joke is supposed to be that they want something. The kid is only nice when Christmas is near, or got bad grades. The “joke” is supposed to be that there can be no expression of love or affection or kindness without an expectation of a return.
At this time of year, we should be especially able to see through that charade. This is the time of year that we give gifts – gifts of our time, gifts of things, gifts of money, even flowers and food – and we give them not so that we get gifts in return, but for the joy of giving them.
For the joy of seeing those we care about be happier.
And that brings me back to those posts about relationships.
In any relationship – at least any committed relationship – you give of yourself. You may change things of yourself. You may give up things, accept new things or do things that are different.
You may deal with difficulties with your partner. Things may not be ideal.
But that doesn’t mean things are doomed.
As Plato said: “Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”
As long as you’re making choices knowingly, as long as you’re seeing the progress as well as the failures, that isn’t lopping off parts of yourself or being untrue to yourself. It isn’t manipulation or threats. It isn’t simply appeasing a partner in some quid pro quo kind of deal.
That can be an expression of real love.
So this holiday season I ask only this simple thing of you:
Do not give up considering the worst.
But make a choice.
Choose to presume the best of those who love you. Accept thier gifts in any form – time or energy or things or just simply caring enough to say “yes, dear” when they agree with you – as the offerings of love that they are.
Accept them not as bargaining chips, not as manipulation, but as them telling you that they love you, and want you to be happy.