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April 29, 2013

Lisa Madras: Don’t like me? Don’t need you around, either

NEW CASTLE — What have you lost interest in recently?

It seems as if I lose interest in more and more things as I get older. It might seem a frightening thought at first, but really, how many trivial pursuits do we cling to that we eventually just outgrow?

There was a time when I was concerned with having a nice tan, but age and wisdom brought me to my senses. I lived for the occasional kegger in my college days, but outgrew that in a blessedly short amount of time. Sometimes things that seem uber-important at one moment of your life just aren't right for the life you're living now, and that's a good thing.

The thing I've lost the most interest in recently was, for most of my life, the driving force behind everything I did: the need for acceptance. From my earliest days on the playground right up to the days surrounding my 40th birthday, I wanted ... no, NEEDED, everyone to like me.

One hint of disapproval from the remotest of acquaintances and I was a crumbling, groveling ball of nerves. I would embark on strained conversations with lengthy explanations and pleas for the offended individual to understand that I was innocent of the assumed wrong-doing.

But a few weeks ago, as some of my girlfriends and I sat around a bonfire, one of them asked if I was still friends with a mutual acquaintance with whom I'd had a notoriously rocky relationship. "Not really," I responded. "I'm too old to waste energy on people I don't really want around me anymore."

I felt as if I'd had one of those "Ah-ha" moments Oprah is always talking about when I realized, as I licked melted s'mores from my fingertips, that I was speaking the absolute truth. And I actually surprised myself with a truth I hadn't previously realized.

How freeing such knowledge can be! I'd always known what a burden it was to constantly need everyone's approval, but I'd never known how to overcome it. Who knew that eventually, someday, I would just simply outgrow it, as surely as a houseplant that needs moved to the outdoors?

Yes, I've lost interest in persuading others to like to me, or even to just accept me as I am. That's a burden that I've handed over to those who care about me. Those people will treasure our friendship and work with me to maintain it. Those people don't need any kind of persuading to hang around.

The other people? Well, I still wish them the best. But they're going to have to find it in their own garden.


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