One of my friends read my blog piece on ‘age, wisdom and intolerance’ before we met up for a night out recently. A school-mate had come home from afar and those of us who live close spent a wonderful night in her company regaling her with stories of our lives and catching up with hers. Towards the end of the night, the few smokers among us were outside the venue and as we sat beside each other, my pal (the other smoker!!) told me I was wrong to feel the way I did about other people or certainly how I expressed it in my blog.
My friend told me that for her, the opposite has happened. She used to be closed off to the influences of other people, to the ‘camaraderie’ of other people, because she somehow felt they would have no interest in her; getting to know her, to talk to her and as a result she stayed ‘closed off’ to them. It is only in the last few years that she has opened herself to more opportunities, to meeting new people, to not prejudging what others will think of her and letting what will happen just happen, that she is now willing to open a conversation and see where it goes. My friend feels that this has enriched her life and that by opening herself up to new people, new experiences, new approaches to life that she is the better for it.
I understand all that. I understand the feelings of confinement within the restrains of my personality, my life experiences, my life indeed! For me, freedom came when I recognized I am important; not more important than anyone else, but as important as everyone else. I understood that to grow in this life, I needed to open myself up, to free myself from who I thought I was. Part of that freedom, that new found sense of self didn’t go down well with those who constantly saw me unwell; as someone to be ‘minded’ to be ‘guided’, to be ‘led’. Because for me, wellness brought a new sense of self worth, I didn’t want to be minded, guided or led any more. I wanted to take my place alongside them, not behind them. I wanted to open myself to the possibility of re-connecting with other people. In that I think I agree with my pal Tina. I do open myself up to other people now, in a way I didn’t in the past and I get rewarded time and time again, because other peoples opinions, their life experience, their sense of who they are is wonderful – different – divergent – stimulatingly wonderfully different to mine – and that’s what’s unique to them.
I think that we are actually on the same page, Tina and I. I just think we came to the same conclusions through different routes; and express it differently Its not that I am completely intolerant of other people, don’t get me wrong; what I am intolerant of though, is the feeling that some would put me back ‘behind’… Those are the ones I will spend no time on – those are the friendships I won’t take any further, those are the ones who are ‘not worth it’. But I will talk to anyone! I can be outrageous and it is absolutely freeing, because I now have only one real critic: myself.
My friend has opened herself up by starting a conversation with people who years ago she would have just nodded at and then quickly passed the other way. I am doing the same thing; opening a conversation with others. We both agree that it is freeing, it is liberating in a way and it is truly wonderful. I know for me, I don’t want to be put back in that box I created for myself. And that is what I meant by being intolerant of others. Perhaps intolerant is too strong a word. Perhaps it is freedom I seek most of all: freedom to be who I really am. But isn’t that what we all seek? A freedom to be, a freedom to think, a freedom to act – responsibly!! This life is not a dress rehearsal for what is to come; (and THAT is a whole other conversation), but what we have and who we are should not be squandered, should not be wasted. For me, age and wisdom has meant I can be free to be who I am. I am still learning all the time; through my family, through my siblings, my children, my parents, my husband, and all those who know me. And it does bring a ‘reluctance’ to spend time with others who would not value that time in me as I value it in them. I don’t mean that everyone who comes into my life HAS to enrich it; there are those who simply pass through, who I may engage in conversation at a door and enjoy the banter but that is fleeting, it is not those I speak of, when I write here. So perhaps my friend Tina is right: Intolerance brings its own form of danger to a person, and standoffishness means I can be left being ‘intolerant’ on my own! So lets end this by saying; with age and wisdom comes freedom! – And a reluctance to have that freedom quashed!