There I was in the restroom/washroom at a restaurant washing my hands and an inebriated woman handed me a paper towel.
“Thank you, but I can get my own,” I said smiling, because after all, we are in a pandemic and I have been known to be a little anal over not getting Covid. She looked at me askance and then it dawned on her.
“I don’t have this covid thing. I’m totally fine, but alright,” she shrugged. Then she asked the question that everyone is asking nowadays. “Are you vaccinated?”
“Absolutely. I have my two doses.” I fully expected her to say the same. Just then another woman walked in and I watched these two women high five each other, shouting with glee, dropping f-bombs and declaring with enthusiasm, “I ain’t getting that f—king vaccine. I ain’t giving that … vaccine to my kid.”
“I’m outta here,” I said to no-one, because they weren’t even listening.
At first, because I’m human, I was a little upset, thinking that if only everyone was vaccinated, then we could hopefully eradicate COVID-19, much in the same way that polio and smallpox have been eradicated. Like everyone else, I want this pandemic to be over. There is one thing however, that will never be over. It is our erroneous expectation that people will somehow think and act the way we do and then when they don’t, we’re somehow surprised, annoyed, angered or offended.
The same way we are free to think, say and do whatever we want (within reason of course), so are other people. This means that if we want our lives and our relationships to work, if we want to be content, loving to others, and at peace with ourselves, we have to live and let live. This is harder than it seems. It means that when people say or do things to us that we would never do to them, don’t take it personally. It means not allowing our anger and disappointment to ruin our day.
I’ve chosen to get the vaccine and to vaccinate my children. I feel safer this way. But I also acknowledge there are people who are fearful of the vaccine, people who do not trust the vaccine, people who know other people who have been harmed by vaccines in general, people who say they are so busy they don’t have time to get the vaccine and I could go on and on. The reality is each person living his or her life will do exactly what they want to do for their own reasons. We cannot impose our will on anyone else. So the next time you disagree with someone’s vaccine views, the best thing to do is simply acknowledge how they feel and change the subject. You won’t be able to change their minds. This is not to say someone’s mind can’t be changed about the vaccine, but they’ll change their own minds when they’re ready.
One of my students told me that she doesn’t get along with her father because he doesn’t call her, ever. Her mother calls her every day. I thought it was a pity that she measured his love for her by a phone call. But then, I thought about my own father and how I did the same thing a long time ago. He rarely calls and back in my twenties, I measured his love for me by how often he called me. As I got older, I realized this was ridiculous. He loves me whether or not he calls. If I miss him, I’ll call him. Some mothers call their adult children every day. I don’t. It doesn’t mean I love my children any less.
This is important for all kinds of behaviours and all kinds of relationships. You may bring your spouse coffee every morning and get annoyed when they don’t reciprocate. Maybe they have a different way of showing love. (This is why that book Love Language is so popular). It takes a helluva lot of work to allow people to be themselves, to look for the good and not the negative, to actually try and understand someone else’s point of view.
It is inevitable that someone will piss you off. For me, it’s when I’m in a public restroom and someone rushes out of the stall and doesn’t wash their hands. I get self-righteous and irate, thinking I would never do that and how gross. Unless you’re going to take action like my Aunt C and remind them that the soap dispenser works, the best thing to do is realize there’s not much you can do to change another adult person’s behaviour. They are free to not wash their hands as much as you are free to wash yours. Getting upset isn’t changing them, but it’s making your life a little more unpleasant as you silently fume, wishing you could call them out and haul them back into the washroom like a child.
And so, whether it is vaccine views, hand washing habits, work ethics, discourteous behaviour, blunt and thoughtless words, bad driving, etc., our relationships and peace will improve when we realize that we are all free to think, say and do what we want. Two, we cannot expect other people to do what we want them to do. Three, since we are all free and do what we want anyway, don’t take any of it personally. None of it. Shrug it off and focus on your goals. Don’t waste a minute of your precious energy wondering how other people can be so different from you.
Live your life. Let others live theirs.