Friend or Foe?

We all have them in our lives.  Like fingernails on a chalkboard, there are certain people we would swear were put on this earth solely to irritate, agitate, or otherwise discombobulate.  These people obliterate any chance of a hassle free existence.

For some it’s a boss, a relative, a senator (or pick your politician), a next door neighbor, a daughter’s coach, a son’s teacher, a parent’s pharmacist, or a constantly complaining client.  For others it may be the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick maker, people who are in our lives more out of necessity or by virtue of profession than choice.  

In the case of the Texas Rangers, it would be the St. Louis Cardinals.  I’m writing this during Game 7 of the World Series.  In my case, it’s been my landlord.  I bought a house so I would no longer have to deal with his covert attempts to kick me and my dogs to the curb.

My practice of Ho’oponopono was seriously challenged the past couple of months in order to act my age and not my shoe size.   I was able to do this partly because I remembered something a guru or shaman or hung over hippie once told me.  Those who are our greatest enemies in this life may have been our greatest allies in another.  What if these people loved us so much once that they agreed to come back again as our enemies simply to ensure our growth?

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not or whether you can fathom that your current curmudgeon could be motivated by anything other than spite, greed, fear, or self interest, the fact remains that these people often elicit our most resourceful responses.  They compel us to act on our convictions in a way that a pep talk with a friend who has known and loved us all our life may not.

I think of the day my landlord posed the question, “How important is it for you to have two dogs?”  Of course the appropriate answer arose as soon as the opportunity had passed.  Instead of answering his question with another question, “How important is it for you to get a rent check?” I called my real estate agent.  

Of all the buttons to push, this was the one that catapulted me into action.  My response was something like Sandra Bullock’s character in The Blind Side ,  “You threaten my dogs,  you threaten me.”

The truth is I had been tolerating little things ever since I moved in.  It was a little like being nibbled to death by ducks. Things had reached a head by the summer but since I had convinced myself my third move in four years would be out of Iowa and I was not ready to make that move, I simply endured it.  That is until the day of the inciting incident.

An inciting incident is what moves the story to the next stage.  In a nutshell, it’s the conflict that makes any story worth reading, any challenge worth accepting, or any World Series game worth watching. 

Okay, scratch that last one.  Personally I would have preferred the Rangers win in four games straight rather than the Cardinals in seven so as to avoid the nail biting, teeth clenching, gut wrenching histrionics that occurred around the fifth, sixth, and ninth innings of almost every game in the series.   As a former Queen of Calm, tonight ‘s stress management strategy is to write instead of watch the game.  I must admit, however, these shenanigans up the level of play for each team.

[Aside:  I’m really not a sports fan and certainly not a sports writer but if I had to pick a sport, baseball would be my choice – except for the excessive spitting.   I spent my twenties in Texas and a many memorable evening at the ballpark in Arlington.  Hence my affection for the Rangers.  That and I believe in spreading the World Series wealth.  Why does any team need to win eleven times when another team just wants to win one?]

The fact is every hero needs a nemesis to help realize his or her superpowers.  Up until this point, the only noticeable superpower that has surfaced at midlife has been the Invisibility Cloak.  Where I may have been noticed or at least acknowledge by name earlier in my life, now I get the generic “Ma’am” or “Mrs”, neither of which I respond well to,  when asked if I want to use my AARP discount.  That doesn’t set well either.

Maybe the real superpower and the one that requires an arch enemy or difficulty du jour is to realize what cartoonist Hugh MacLeod of  suggests.  ” We are only happy if we are frustrated.”

Anything worth doing is fraught with frustration partly because expressing ourselves authentically is incredibly challenging.  It’s also intensely important to the way we see ourselves.  Ultimately, it’s deeply satisfying precisely because of what it takes to achieve.  (Any guess how many revisions this blog goes through before it sees the light of day?)

I still have a long way to go in embracing the persistent presence of the challenges and challengers in my life.  It takes time and distance to concede they may be doing me a favor by forcing me to move my own story along.

What do you think?  Can a foe be a friend in disguise?  How hard is it to consider?  Who has been especially “friendly” to you lately?

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