I like the idea of parallel universes. There's legitimate scientific research that says that there are infinite universes existing simultaneously in different dimensions, maybe even one for each possible outcome. So in some parallel universe, maybe I'm the king of Norway. It's nice to think about, anyway.
That theory may not be proven or disproven in our lifetimes, but in a way we're already living in parallel universes here in this reality.
In high school, I had a strange arrangement with a couple of my friends who were dating. When things weren't going well in their relationship, they'd take me to Bennigan's restaurant, and each tell their side of what was going on. I'd try to mediate as best I could.
Things didn't always go so great for them, so we did this a few times.
What fascinated me, although I may not have thought of it in these terms, was how small the overlap was in their two universes. They had this shared understanding between each other, and some set of common experiences, having gone to the same school and all, but most of their lives were very separate.
Through their unique life paths, they had built two very different kaleidoscopes through which they viewed the world. Their experiences colored future events and added meaning beyond the bare observations they made. If he didn't call her every day, he didn't care about her. Or from his perspective, he wasn't smothering her.
A friend was telling me today about a dispute he had with a now ex-friend. From my point of view, and my friend's, the other guy had really been out of line, blown something way out of proportion, ended the friendship, and turned vindictive.
And yet, as much as I've long disliked the guy, I doubt he was intentionally malicious. In fact, if we were to piece together some assumptions we could make about his path through life, it was possible to see how maybe, just maybe, he reacted reasonably. Through a filter just distorted enough by past treachery, my own friend's actions could seem suspicious.
Who's right? Maybe both are, each in their own universe. In my friend's universe, where people have always treated him well, and treating others well has always worked, he's in the right. On the other hand, in the other guy's world, where people have deceived him and tried to take advantage of him, he's right. If it barks like a dog, it's a dog; in his world my friend barked like a dog.
It's tempting to want to be the right one all the time. It comes naturally, since we're all so firmly entrenched in our own realities. And yet, it's far too easy of an explanation to assume that we're always right. Smart as we may be, none of us is that smart all the time.
Walking in another's shoes is one thing, but how about stepping into their reality? Thinking about their past, allowing for the skeletons in their closet that we'll never see, and finding the narrative that makes them right in their own universe.
I write a lot about how seeing the truth as accurately as possible is a virtue, and this is an extension of it. Sometimes the world offers paradoxes, and accepting them is the best path forward. So when you're at odds with someone, consider that you may both be right in your own universes. That may not help with the facts of your shared reality, but it can cool down emotions and provide a way forward.
Photo is a wall mural from the modern wing at the Boston MFA
This is basically the idea behind the book "Difficult Converstations", a book which Tynan has cited as one of his favorites.
I have always said, "Never judge a man unless you have walked a mile in his shoes. THEN, when you do judge him, you will be a mile away, AND. . . you will have his shoes :o)
We don't see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. Seeing is being and being is seeing. - Steven Covey
I registered just to post this comment.
This is a topic I rarely ever see anyone talk about, and I've spent the past 5 years or so thinking about it nearly every single day.
When I was 15 my parents divorced. Mainly because my mother is entirely intolerable. She yelled, screamed, guilt tripped, and usually all this made sure she "got her way". So I understand why she did and still does do it. But in the end it cost her her marriage. When I chose to live with my dad she was furious with me. I was a treacherous little bitch. Her words. Nearly five years later she hasn't forgiven me a bit. On the rare occasion that we talk it ends with her screaming at me and me having to hang up.
Of course this sounds like abuse, and she is an abusive person. But she doesn't realize it. She honestly, truly feels she was abandoned and wounded by me. In her personal world she *was* abandoned and wounded by me, and nothing I can ever do will alleviate the guilt I feel about it.
I don't regret my choice, but I really only had two very bad choices: stay with a verbally abusive mother, or live with the guilt of causing her to hurt.
No one I've ever spoken to about this (admittedly not many because it's very person and I still feel raw about it) gets it. They all think I made the right choice, and since she's an awful person why on earth should I feel guilt about it? But the fact is that in the universe of her mind I caused her an unbelievable amount of pain with my selfishness. It's a thing and it happened and "right" and "wrong" don't change it a bit.
Anyways, on a happier note it's good to know I'm not totally crazy and that someone else in the world has considered this!
Jenn, You seem like someone who would be worth meeting :D It is wonderful that you did something to honor yourself, even though it was difficult, and yet you were still able to validate your mother's feelings. That knowledge and ability is very special and will take you far. Try not to be too hard on yourself. You did do the right thing. No amount of you feeling bad, or taking her abuse, would or will, fix HER problems.
My uncle told me this once about a problem I was having, and it helped . . . . "Intellectually you know you did the right thing, but emotionally, it's still difficult."
it's a relief to notice that it's your Mom's thinking about what you did that causes her pain, not what you did, isn't it?
Somewhat. It means I made the right choice and there was nothing else I could do about her pain anyways.
If your loved one had their arm chopped off by a horrible person how would you feel? You'd probably still feel pretty sick thinking about the paid your loved when went through. And you'd be sad for him that he'd have to spend the rest of his life with only one arm. But you didn't chop it off, so why are you feeling bad about it?
Not the best analogy since my mom brought it on herself, but you get the point.
I suggest you read Loving What is and A Thousand Names For Joy, and then review this post and give your comments. You seem like a person who wants to know the truth and you are getting closer. Keep up the good work.....
As far as I was concerned, she was perfect. She was at least as smart as I was, was a dancer and had the body to prove it, and had a smile that could disarm the national guard. Let's call her Julie.
So, like an earthworm stalking it's prey, I put my usual game on her. Since my last flowchart was so popular, I've made another one to show you how I dealt with the ladies back then:
Nedless to say, things went slowly. We hung out nearly every day for the last couple months of our Senior year summer vacation. Like many guys, I was totally oblivious to her attraction for me. One morning Julie came over really early while I was still sleeping, and squeezed into my twin bed with me. I woke up, and assumed that she must be tired - it didn't even occur to me that she might like me. Finally on the last week of that vacation she said to me,
Somewhere, outside the Universe
"Mothers, you promised you would take me out. You're always reminding me how dangerous some of the recent cross-currents are and how it would be better if I waited for some adult supervision."
"We did, and we're sorry but we can't get away from work right now. Ask your fathers, maybe one of them can manipulate the time." They discorporated and vanished into a nearby temporal slipstream. It was always that way with them. No point in looking around for my fathers, they were equally involved in some research or crisis that would require their full attention.
My parents were always too busy. Half the time, I'm left raising myself. I don't even know why they bothered to conceive of me in the first place.