After a few anxious episodes, furtively eyeing the calendar along with bated breath, I made it- -I turned 50 years old yesterday- -WOOHOO!!! Some people might find it strange for someone to be so happy reaching that particular milestone, but I ended up beating out a family curse, so to speak. In one particular branch of my family, people either died in their late 40’s, namely 48 or 49, or they lived into their 80’s, 90’s or 100’s. Yes, there are even a couple of 104’s in there. The thing is, there was no one dying in between the late 40’s and the 80+- -none. In fact, more than half of the individuals had the late 40’s curse. Some died in accidents, some of illness like pneumonia, others with aneurysms, heart disease or cancer. Each time I would ‘outlive’ a particular individual who had met an early fate, I would give thanks, yet wonder if I’d be one of the ones who made it to the half century mark. Yesterday I breathed a sigh of relief, and even if I leave this realm tomorrow (although I sincerely hope I don’t, not for a few decades yet), I can say I made it.
Does any great knowledge or awareness come with attaining a half century mark? Not anything I’d call huge or mind-blowing, but more of a cumulative nature…little things that add to an understanding, sometimes towards tolerance, other times towards shutting out things you realize are not good for you, things that are deleterious in general.
While researching traits exhibited by some members of my family, as well as people I came across later in life, I found a pattern. Now, depending on what site/source you’re using, some may call it mental illness while others say the traits are a result of opening a door and something coming in. (Just as in life, if you leave your front door unlocked you don’t know for sure what might cross your threshold). These people all exhibited some, if not all, of the following traits at varying times:
- Very judgmental, critical, condescending, and demeaning.
- Very self-centered and narcissistic.
- Cannot stand any type of constructive criticism.
- Very combative and confrontational.
- Needs to be the center of attention.
- Demanding and manipulative.
- Hateful when they think they’ve been crossed.
- Cunning, vile, evil.
- Superiority complex.
- Delusional, including delusions of grandeur.
This isn’t a full list, but hits on some of the highlights. These traits aren’t expressed all the time as there are times of calm, but you can rest assured that ugliness will rear its head again and again.
I lived with a person for part of my childhood who was the embodiment of these traits. Some would say that person was mentally ill, and I would agree. I would also agree, knowing the history, that they opened a door and invited “X” in, but one has no control over what actually comes through that door. (If you think you do have control, see number 10 above). Something came through and attached itself, but it wasn’t necessarily “X”.
When I left home, I never had contact with that person again because of the above. Luckily I haven’t run across anyone who was ‘broken’ to that degree since, at least not on a level that affected me like the aforementioned one. I have known some people who exhibited those traits, though. Trying to be tolerant, and knowing that everyone has bad days, or quirks we really don’t like, I tried to focus on the good parts of those people, the times of calm, and tried to tune out the frothing at the mouth BS when it would raise its head.
However, when you near the half century mark, you realize how important it is to minimize and neutralize sources of negativity, people that personally attack and belittle, at times in the guise of offering an opinion on another topic, other times in the guise of being some kind of “expert”. You learn to see through the BS, see the pattern, and come to the realization that some people are just like this. There is nothing you can do to help them, change them, smooth out the rough edges, remove the vileness, etc. They are who they are, whether it’s mental illness or something that has its claws firmly embedded in them. You have to realize it’s not you, it’s them, and to keep that negativity from casting a shadow on you, you have to move away from the source of it. Surround yourself with what you want for yourself- -peace, calm, love, light- -and project it onto others if at all possible.
Whether it’s a psychotic boss, an ex, a family member, significant other, a friend or coworker, sometimes being tolerant isn’t good enough, looking the other way when they attack others, or you, time after time while they try to twist it into being something else isn’t good enough. Sometimes the only thing good enough is just to walk away. Say a prayer, wish them well, hope that one day things might change for them, but realize you can’t do anything to affect that change.
It’s the right thing to do, for your own mental health and well being, because no one needs or deserves that kind of exposure to negativity. And at 50 years old, that valuable lesson is good enough for me.