Growing up, I looked to writing for human connection and escape. I found friends in stories, wrote friends in my own stories. I could be someone new if I wanted because writing put me in control.
As an adult, writing is my main form of communication in a world of hurting people who are often careless or eager to shut one another down. In person interactions are a challenge to me for various reasons. Written interaction can be safe by offering distance between reader and writer whether physically or in the form of time to craft and process.
Still, there is plenty of opportunity for reactivity both in writing and its reading. Op-eds and blogs posts can be scathing responses to unwanted election result (right?). As easy as it is to feel safe communicating from behind a boundary, it is even easier to launch an attack. We build literal and figurative walls symbolizing our desire for separation. We wear masks to maintain anonymity in a world where individuality is both celebrated and stigmatized. Be different just like everyone else! Be too different and you're on your own.
Where does choice (or free will) fall on this spectrum of expectation?
My personal choice partially ends where it touches the choice of another. While I can choose my reactions to others, I cannot choose their reactions to me. Responding positively to a person who is determined to harm me may sway their opinion, but they can still launch their attack in the face of my kindness. An example is if someone decides to punch me because they don't like my opinions. I did not physically choose that option. They did. The same is true for insulting comments from a reader. It happens to all of us.
Even though I can't choose the reaction I receive, I can choose the way I receive the reaction. Will I respond with anger? Sadness? Curiosity? Violence? Compassion? What about a mixture of these? And if there is a mix--which would be a very human response--which will I allow to be expressed in the biggest way?
In writing I have more time to choose. I have the power of the delete key on my side. I can write the angriest response first to let the anger out and then write my compassion if I want to. To be honest, this is usually what I do. It can take me awhile to get to a place of empathy when someone didn't bother to extend the same to me. Here's my secret, though: Even if I choose to use my words to express an unpopular viewpoint or decide to indulge in a bit of snark on a hot topic that reactive readers attempt to flag into oblivion, I will always come back to that place of nonreactive curiosity.
Why? Reactivity doesn't serve anyone. It only breeds greater discontent.
Sure, I could dedicate my time to being insulted. I could take those actions personally, but the only person who owns those actions is the one who personally undertook them. Instead of investing my energy in someone else's negativity, I choose to invest it in writing myself to a happier place. I think it's amazing that pretty much anywhere I want to go, words can take me.
Where are words taking you today?
images via pixabay.com