A couple years back I experienced an unpleasant period of time where I learned that looks can be deceiving... and seemingly lovely and fun people can turn out to be toxic, pathetic bags of douche. Having been locked into and dragged through a couple of different quagmires, and finally reaching the other end, I've spent the last 6 months trying to readjust to the new "normal" of life. This is a life freer of the negativity, stress, drama (real and manufactured), confrontation, and nightmares, however this is also a life laced with the underlying stench of the quagmire experience.
In other words... there are residual effects on my behavior after those experiences, and my initial reaction to a given situation can be more reactive than is most likely necessary. The most prominent example of this is what I call my "bullshit meter" - this internal meter is, more often than not, on a hair-trigger sensitivity level these days. If I detect a whiff of "this person is full of shit", "this person is selfish", or the worst... "this person is being passive-aggressive"... red flags fly in my mind and my patience drops to zero.
In some instances this isn't that bad of a thing. I most definitely stand up for myself far better than I did 4 or so years ago, but on the other hand I don't really enjoy the anger that bubbles up as an accompaniment to the recognition of bullshit. Ideally I would like to be able to simply see it for what it is and deal with it accordingly, minus the rise in blood pressure. So I have spent the last 6 months or so thinking about this quite a lot, and I have been working on ways to mentally step out of a given situation, take a few deep breaths, and determine the best course of action. I ask myself, "is this situation worth my time and effort to engage in? Will anything positive come out of this? Or do I just add another mark to the 'bullshit' column and remove myself from further hassle?"
Through conversations with good friends, I have refocused my energies on more positive philosophies. One such wonderful philosophy is this:
"We do our best, and then we let it go."
There is only so much of yourself you can offer to any given situation, and at some point beyond that it is no longer in your hands, nor in your control. I cannot count how many times in the last year that I have taken a deep breath, let it out slowly, and repeated those words to myself. The difficulty is in recognizing the point in which to remove your white-knuckled grip from the current position, realize you truly have done all that you can and all that could be expected of you... then let it go and hope for the best.
In a recent discussion, the idea of "forgive and forget" was brought up to me. Maybe that would help me feel better, if I could "just forgive and forget."
Even before the quagmires I was never a fan of this philosophy. For one thing, if we "forget" everything, are we not doomed to repeat it? I don't want to hold grudges by any means, but there is a limit to how often one can (for example) be an hour late to dinner, and if everyone just forgets about it all the time then they are doomed to have cold soup every time they invite Her Tardiness. Forgive the lateness if you feel like it, but rather than forget about it maybe remember that they are always late and pad the invitation for next time. Learn from history.
Additionally, forgiveness to me equates to "I understand why you did it, and I'm OK with that, let's hug it out and grab some coffee." If you truly feel OK about it then great... but there are things in this world which are simply unforgivable.
That's not to say I don't seek to understand where the other individual is coming from. In fact I am probably curious to a fault in that I will mull things over and ask repeated questions in an effort to understand exactly why someone said the thing they said, or did the thing they did. Once I comprehend the why, then I reach that crossroads of decision; to continue to put effort into this situation to find a solution, or take another path. In either case, my goal is to comprehend and move on.
Life becomes far happier when you are able to wash off the stench of quagmires and distance yourself from the toxicity and negativity that others produce.