There’s this M. Night Shyamalan movie that has an monologue that a friend and I once transformed a bit. We took the word “dead” and inserted “stupid”.
I see stupid people. They’re all around me. They don’t know they’re stupid.
Today I have been dealing with the frustration of not being able to express my frustration at what I consider stupidity.
I should be ecstatic right now.
After months and months of waiting, my housing situation is finally resolving, and I am signing a lease on an apartment!!!!!!
And I am ecstatic, but I am also feeling assaulted by constant texts and calls and questions and threats by the owner of the apartment that I have secured. It isn’t that they are intentionally being hurtful or aggressive. They just don’t understand anything about this process and they are continually looking to me for answers. And I am frustrated to the point of tears, because it isn’t my job to hold the hand of my landlord while they figure out how to deal with a leasing agency or the Chicago Housing Authority for the first time. They should be looking to the leasing agency or the housing authority for that assistance. But they are not. They are basically harassing me because they don’t understand shit.
I see stupid people.
This morning, after assuring the landlord last night that everything was on track with the housing authority, and that the leasing agent would be connecting with the processing department regarding funds I put aside in December and how we would disperse those funds, and saying that I would be in touch as soon as I had news, I got a 9 am text: Any news … on when we are meeting
Shortly after, I got a phone call, and when I explained that we were trying to iron out the details, but all would be fine, and we could sign the lease later in the day, once that was done, I was told, “as long as this happens today”, “we have waited way too long”, “I’m very unhappy with their [the leasing agency’s] service”.
And while I held my tongue and gave all sorts of kind and cautiously worded assurances on the phone with the landlord, a few minutes later, my best friend got a text that said, “I’m just getting upset because suddenly the landlord is like ‘this happens today’ ‘we have waited too long’. And I am like, and I have been waiting since October! I’ve been discriminated against and turned down and stressed out and screamed at and living in fear. You’ve what? Waited through February for me to pay you for your fucking empty apartment with cash I begged friends and family for? What right do they have to be so indignant and demanding?”
Then I apologized for letting the feelings that were coming up from the interaction with the landlord come out toward my friend.
But at least they came out … because I went for acupuncture for the first time yesterday, and my acupuncturist was telling me about how acupuncture helps release the emotion and stress and trauma and unvoiced stuff that gets trapped in our body when we hold on to all of that shit. However, if we keep holding it, the problem will remain chronic, because the problem is holding down the shit, and acupuncture can’t stop us from doing that. We need to learn to stop the cause, not keep treating the effect ad nauseum.
Anyway, the financing was worked out, and the housing authority once again expressed to me, in detail, the situation with the case, and assured me that all is well with moving forward and signing the lease today. The leasing agency, whose services have been AMAZING, by the way, said they would call and explain the payment details to the landlord, so I don’t need to stress over that anymore and can focus on finishing up packing and getting the lease signed so that my move can happen in two days.
All is well, and I am moving back toward the ecstatic end of the spectrum.
And as the calm sets in, I start to think on my own moments of being a “stupid person” this week.
I got a different phone this week. In an effort to save money, I switched wireless carriers. Switching carriers was easy (and saved me a load of cash!). Transferring my data from one phone to the other, however, proved far more difficult. I know that the lovely young man in the store told me to take the phones home, update the old one on my computer, reset the new one, and restore. Somehow that doesn’t work. I don’t know what I am doing wrong, but I cannot make that work. I know what should happen when I work through that process, but that isn’t what actually happens. And in the meantime, I can’t keep carrying around two phones, a watch, and a tablet that are all alerting me to different things and have bits of critical information that need to combine to create a functional Christy.
So, I simply downloaded and signed into and reorganized and started over with apps and calendars and accounts. But that means when I go to check in with my lovely young man on Saturday to see how I am getting along with my new phone, he can’t even do the restore thing for me, because then I will lose all of the new things that I have done on the new phone if we restore from a tabula rasa. I no longer have a blank slate to start with. I’ve worked to create a slate full of organization and function.
Am I a stupid person when it comes to updating phones? Absolutely! Am I a stupid person when it comes to advanced mathematics? Absolutely! Am I a stupid person when it comes to any number of things that I am not skilled in and do not understand as well as another person? Absolutely!
Here’s the thing: I’m really fucking intelligent. I am. I’m not ashamed of that, and I should never have to hide that so other people don’t feel less intelligent than I am. It is totally fine that I am smart. It is great, honestly. But I am not skilled in and informed about every subject. There are lots of things that I am not good at and plenty more that I am not educated regarding. Sometimes I am the stupid person.
At one point or another, we are all the person who is stupid. And at one point or another, we are all the person who has perspective, information, and guidance that another needs. What is most important is not whether we are the one needing guidance or offering it, but how we are treating one another in both of those situations.
When I am in the phone store, and the lovely young man is assisting me to figure out the new technology, I am kind, apologetic, and grateful. I listen. I ask for him to write things down on paper if I can’t follow along in my head. I thank him repeatedly and tell him how valuable his skills are, and how appreciative I am for his assistance. This is how I be the stupid person.
When I am the person offering the guidance, I hold my frustration for another space and time. I ask for another to call and explain, since it shouldn’t fall to me to handle the situation. I say things using different language, and I repeat things when needed. I offer encouragement and assurances. I try to remain calm and keep my voice soft, metered, and sweet-sounding. I send documentation, source materials, and copies of proofs. I do whatever I can to make things clear and calm. This is how I am when I am the one who is dealing with the “stupid person”.
Somehow, the way you act and react in the situation makes all the difference. And that is how we get through life without harming one another in all sorts of ways—by not being stupid or smart in ways that are indignant, threatening, stubborn, superior, rude, harassing, demanding, ungrateful, or hurtful in any way. We manage to learn from one another, and to help one another through the challenges, by being grateful and kind and patient, and by caring for one another through these interactions.
I think that much of what is wrong with America in particular, and the world in general, these days is that we have forgotten that basic common decency. We have forgotten how to care for one another through these interactions. I’m not sure how that is possible.
Because we all seem to be crying out to be cared for while we refuse to care for anyone else.
This is a two-way street, people. It goes both ways. If you want to be cared for, you absolutely need to start caring for others. You don’t get one without the other.
It required an amount of gratitude, patience, support from others, meditation, self-care, and self-soothing that I almost could not summon to cope with persons who wanted me to guide them without offering me the care and gratitude and patience that I required from them. When they didn’t offer me that, I needed to find it elsewhere. Most people don’t have a wealth of gratitude and support and patience and Zen to draw from. I’m lucky to have found the value of amassing stores of such things as a tool for maintaining mental health and managing chronic illness, so I have it to call upon in situations where others forget to care in our interactions. But most are not amassing stores upon which they can draw. Most are pushed beyond breaking points and that frustration and anger and pain of not being offered respect and care and gratitude fly out into the open, creating volatile and even deadly situations.
What would the world look like if we offered the care and avoided the open expression of that pain?
I think it would look very different. I think it would look much better, much more kind, and much more beautiful. I think it would offer us freedom and would decrease our anxiety and fear. I think that it would bring many of us the peace and the positive feedback we needed to keep on going through the challenging moments. And it would let all of us breathe a big sigh of relief.
This is the first time that I have the insight that I am the stupid person all around someone else, and that understanding how I am stupid, and how I am smart makes a huge difference in my interactions with others. I hope that my insight might offer you the opportunity to consider your own interactions.
How do you act and react when you are “smart” or “stupid”? What ways can you add care to those interactions, and what difference might that make?
I’ll put it out there so none of the comments need to … I used to be an asshole about being smart! I loved knowing stuff and being smarter than others. But I think that was largely because there was so much pain in other areas of my life. I was terrible at relationships. I was keeping devastating secrets. I was living in constant fear. Pain fueled the way I interacted then. I’m not the same person now. I’m not the same person in this moment that I was at 9 am, frankly. The insight I’ve gained while writing this post has literally changed who I am. But, the last 4 years of therapy, and study, and mindfulness, have changed the place from which my interactions originate. They don’t always come from fear and pain any longer. I have new spaces—better spaces—from which to draw.
We don’t need to keep interacting in the same ways we always have. It can take a lot of difficult work to change how we interact and from where we draw that gratitude and fortitude and support. But it is worth it. I believe it can change the world. That is so worth it.