About 3 years ago, I was a member of practically ALL of the adoption groups on Facebook. Adoptive Families, Creating a Family, Heart for Open Adoption, Domestic Infant Support… you get the idea.
I spent a lot of time in these groups. I made some friends. I also made a couple of enemies. That’s what this post is about, sort of.
You see, I enjoyed arguing with people on the Internet. For the most part, I always tried to be respectful. I never outright insulted people. But I would get very passionate about certain subjects. One day – I think it was in the fall – a new member of a group was very, very wrong. I’ll call her Val. She was the wrongest kind of wrong that ever wronged a wrong. One night, I found myself staying up late just to argue with her. And then I stopped for a moment…
I didn’t like who I was in those comments. Why did I feel such a burning desire to be right??? I decided I needed some time away. I withdrew from all but one of my adoption groups (the one I moderate, which is very slow and, well, moderate). I spent sometime in my own head. I made a startling discovery.
When I was a freshman in high school, my best guy friend was Josh. Josh was kind of like a brother to me, sometimes the annoying, obnoxious older brother type, in fact. We had this argument over whether French or German was the national language of Switzerland. Someone told me it was (I’m going to spell this the way I thought it was spelled when I was 14) “Doych.” I thought she meant Dutch. I know that’s ridiculous now, but I was 14. Josh decided to tease me about it, making me feel like I was an idiot for not knowing “Deutsche” was German for “German.” I jumped up, he freaked out and knocked over his desk. (He maintains that I lunged for him and pushed his desk over. I did not.)
Again, why did I feel the need to be right to the extent that I would scare a friend?
It probably wasn’t the same day, but it seems like it could have been… While getting ready for school, my dad told me, in a very unkind way, to put away the bread. I was making tea or oatmeal or something in the kitchen. I said, “Ann took it out.” All of a sudden, my dad grabbed me by the ponytail, pulled me down, and dragged me by the ponytail through the kitchen and dining room into my room. He locked me in. He took my sister to school. After they were gone, I took the screen off my window and climbed out. I took the bus to school. I was late.
Shit like that happened a lot in my house.
Ann was the pretty one. I was the smart one. That’s all I had going for me – being smart. If I wasn’t smart, then I was nothing. And if I wasn’t right, then I wasn’t smart. So… I had to be right.
Yeah, it took me 20 years to figure that out. I think because I had to put a lot of that crap into a box in my head, because thinking about it really never does any good. So I just never thought about it, ever.
Until I found myself yelling at a woman I didn’t know about a topic that, ultimately, was stupid to argue over. And I was doing it because my dad was who he was and did what he did a couple of decades ago.
Realizing that, I was able to let go of the need to always be right. It’s enough, usually, for me to know that I’m right. I don’t need to metaphorically beat people over the head with how right I am. I also realized that other people who yell at strangers over the Internet probably have their own demons they’re fighting that make them do what they do. I feel sorry for them for not being able to control or deal with their real problems. Self-realization is important and healing and all that jazz.
I have, for the most part, stopped yelling at people over the Internet. I try to make my point and be done. I don’t have to convince anyone that I’m right and they’re wrong. It’s enough for me to know that I’m right, and that I tried. What about when I am wrong? Well, I’m very rarely wrong, actually. Because I stopped needing to be right all the time, I stopped discussing anything I didn’t really know and care about.
You may be asking yourself, “Robyn, do you have a point?” I do. This story provides context for the next couple of posts. It’s important to have a foundation. Stay tuned…