An average writer can usually capture the pain of estrangement. How much more difficult is it to capture the indifference one might feel finding oneself in the same circumstance? Polite society dictates that if one is in the midst of such a circumstance that we do not speak out loud of any feelings we may harbor. But what if we are estranged from someone and there are no feelings? What if your estrangement brings relief?
I looked up synonyms for estrangement. Most of the words chosen do not reflect emotions: alienation, turning away, isolation, variance, difference; parting, separation, division, divorce, disunity, distance, breakup, split, breach, severance, schism. The remaining few of the list did: antagonism, antipathy, disaffection, hostility, unfriendliness, embittered-ness.
I suppose the labeling of a particular estrangement depends on the persons involved. In fact, I argue that the emotional toll of an estrangement is more a societal one than a personal one.
We are all saddened by the relatives that don’t speak to one another, or the divorced couple, or friends who have parted ways. But why? Societal morés dictate that we value all relationships regardless of how they impact us at heart. We ‘should’ seek out relationships with people that are related to us in some manner or another, whether through bloodline, marriage, religious connections, employment etc.
I clearly understand that connections with others is the reason for our being. We are animals whose bloodline will go extinct without the availability of others to help us procreate at the least, and sustain ourselves at the highest peak of self actualization at the most. I value bonded relationships. But what if those relationships are toxic? What if those relationships hurt us; emotionally, socially, physically, mentally? Why are we expected to keep trying?
I think that perhaps the point at which I am most unhappy in a relationship is when we are forced to pretend that I want to try to maintain the connection. Being fake is forces us to lie, lose our genuine selves, and really, stop existing as a whole, perfect person.
I used to teach catechism and found that children enjoyed the lesson on being perfect. We talked about how when they were born they were born perfect. The children often asked, what if I can’t do what I’m supposed to do. What if I’m not smart? What if I cant throw a ball far, or run fast? Believe me there were deeper conversations as the years passed and I took over a junior high cohort. But those questions remained a reflection of what their families and friends valued, not necessarily what they valued. Often, kids would linger to talk about not wanting to disappoint someone.
I understand that we as humans must follow rules meant for the benefit of the herd. I am not talking about that. I am talking about putting our expectations as to what defines a good life onto others, starting with our children. It gets to be a terrible thing when following the herd rules is at the expense of some of its members.
Here’s where I sound hypocritical because I want to impose my beliefs on everyone.
I know that people do things based on their beliefs and training. I know that in their minds they are doing what is right. But when doing something includes being unkind to others, well I can’t abide it. That’s the active part. The latent part is when they turn away from unkind acts and ignore what others are doing and just go about their business. The belief that not everyone has the right to be perfect as the day they were born but instead that it is permissible to judge people by superficial measures is unacceptable to me.
Asking me to pretend that it doesn’t bother me or asking me to be around people who judge and ignore the impact of their behavior on others is a deal breaker. Maintaining such relationships despite their impact on me is exponentially painful and corrodes away who I am. No one should make themselves invisible in order to keep the status quo, or maintain a connection with someone. The connection would not be true anyway, would it?
I cannot be in a relationship that steals my sense of who I am. And truly, I’m not saddened by that. Neither should you.
Prompt: When are you most unhappy in relationships?