When I was a kid, my mom used to rage about people who had weeds growing in their gardens. Those weeds go to seed and those seeds get blown around the neighborhood, leaving my mom’s pristine garden a hapless victim.
Weeds in her garden were the result of inconsiderate, stupid, ignorant weed people who simply didn’t care about anyone but themselves. What’s wrong with people these days? (Apparently, all of those folks who think it is the current generation didn’t know about my mom’s weed problem).
It never occurred to her that maybe her neighbors had different interests. Or maybe they had a different vision of what a good garden might look like. Or maybe they perceived her as eccentric and silly, especially when she started calling the police to report the worst offenders. Who knows? My mom was a master gardener. She knew the facts, and their weeds were a problem, even if the offending parties weren’t much interested in learning about it.
I heard about weeds my whole childhood, as did the neighbors.
My mom was right about weeds but she was wrong about people. The weed people were not bad, malicious, or thoughtless; they were simply operating with a different set of priorities. Her efforts to bludgeon the neighbors into submission through education were not being ignored because they were unable to learn; they were being ignored because they didn’t share her priorities. Her mistake was assuming that once they were educated then they would gladly give up their own interests to ensure that her garden and their neighborhood remained weed free. And when that didn’t happen, she became increasingly frustrated and angry.
When we have a passion, in particular one which is not shared by most of society, we struggle with perspective. We forget that we’re the weird ones; the people with special requirements which are outside the societal norm. We are the problem.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re right. My mom was right. But being right did nothing to solve her problem because her point of view was not the normative one and she was unable to communicate in a way that might have helped other people understand what she needed from them.
“Dog people” seem to struggle with this as well. If you are reading this blog then your beliefs about dogs almost certainly do not fit what is typical. You may have all kinds of knowledge about dogs and how things should be and you may be right! But understanding that you are outside the societal norm might be helpful the next time you try to bludgeon a person into acquiescence when they do something that isn’t to your particular liking.
What’s your issue? Flexi leashes? Dog food? Dogs riding loose in cars? Dogs sticking their head out the car window? Dog parks? Off-leash dogs?
Or maybe your issue has nothing to do with dogs or gardens; maybe you’re the driving police. Everyone should drive exactly the speed limit, use their blinkers at each intersection, cross only at marked crosswalks, and count a full second before proceeding after a stop sign. And if they don’t follow the rules? You’ll be sure to let them know because you are right!
Or maybe you’re all over the map, picking and choosing what you are right about while waiting for the world to recognize your knowledge so that you can finally be appreciated for the prophet that you are.
Really, perspective is everything. And yes, that is exactly how other people perceive you.
Can you take another perspective? Can you list out several reasons why a perfectly decent, thoughtful, normal individual might raise their dog in a different manner than you do? Or break the speed limit on occasion? Or ingore the weeds in their garden? Or feed their dog cheap store bought kibble? Or walk their dog on a flexi?
If you can’t do that without going right back to rationalizing why you are still right, then you are the problem – you simply cannot get far enough out of your worldview to recognize a different possibility. If you cannot stop focusing on the exception, the one neighbor who really does spend their every moment trying to mess with others, then you are the problem. If you really see yourself as the “bearer of truth” who bears the burden of sharing important but uncomfortable truths with the ignorant masses, then you are the problem. If you really cannot recognize that most people are not out to get you, then it really is about you! But maybe not the way you thought.
When I figured out that I was the problem because of my unique perspective on dogs, I became much more able to set up circumstances around me that let me focus on solutions rather than stewing in the unfairness of it all. I found myself getting my needs met, and I had better relationships with others. A net win.
As my mom aged, arthritis made gardening painful and dementia made it unimportant. And while I have no idea if anyone else in the neighborhood cares, I can’t help but think about it every time I show up and realize that my mom is now one of the weed people.