I’m wise enough and old enough to walk away.
My first time was when an uncle who tells big, blowsy stories, always the victim, started in at a family gathering. He was mid gripe about some jerk in a store when I looked vaguely in the other direction and excused myself, walking off to another room without proper explanation.
We’re not close. I owe him nothing more than a discreet exit, perhaps the assumption of a needy kid in another room and the general agreement of the family that I am not an asshole.
It was liberating, to walk away. To choose something else.
Another time in a gelateria I ran into a guy I’d casually dated, back in the 90s. He’d mattered more to me than I to him, but all these years later I was happily on the arm of my husband. He and his date struck up a conversation that turned quickly to construction in our shared neighborhood and its unfortunate impact on them.
When this topic stretched on a little long, I interrupted with something that went like “if you’ll excuse me, there’s a man over there with an espresso waiting for me.”
It was true, and a hot coffee was more important to me than listening. To him. To rambling complaints. I was proud of it, like I’d mastered some last phase of assertiveness.
Life’s too short to be overly polite in such situations.
I listen to people who matter to me, people who have real problems, people who need compassion and humanity. I will always make time and emotional space for them.
With years I have gotten better at separating drama and self involvement from true need. With the coming and going of friends and acquaintances, I’ve gotten better at assessing who matters and better at editing.
I will always be there for friends just as I will complain to them about things that bother me. With time and maturity, I am learning what pain points to share and what perceived slights and small indignities to bear quietly.
And some shit just doesn’t bother me as much anymore.
Like some people overshare, some complain indiscriminately, to people who do not care. If we are lucky, they are witty and clever about it. Either way, their complaining tells you more about them than about any injustice, real or imagined, that they might share.
Parking tickets suck. Post offices are inefficient. Planes are delayed. I know you’re busy; I am too.
In my 40s, I find I am wise enough to avoid negativity. Pettiness. Other people’s shit.
I am old enough to have seen real problems and pain. I am old enough to feel entitled to a prompt, unexcused exit. I urge you to do the same.
(Hey, wait a minute. Where are you going?)