I am not, nor have I ever been a conspiracy theorist. When I put two and two together I always get four, never more, never less. I make observations and ask, “Does that make any sense?” or wonder, “What could possibly be the purpose for that?” The answers to those questions and similar ones will keep me in reality when observations filtered by emotion tell a different story. And I am a believer in the genuine kindness of people; that most people do not purposefully set out to hurt others. I know, the headlines tell us a far different story, but how often does the headline say, “Somebody didn't do anything to anyone today.” The reality is simply that when I feel slighted, it is almost always unintentional, an oversight, a coincidence of unrelated circumstances – nothing more.
That is not to say that I have never been excluded and it is not to say that everybody likes me. I know better and for the most part, today, I really don’t care. I have a large circle of friends that I know like me for who I am and that is enough. I know this. I also know that within intersecting sub-groups of friends, there are some who would rather I was not there. It’s okay, although I tolerate everyone, there are some I’d prefer not be subjected to either. But in the world of mutual friends, there are bound to be uncomfortable intersections where the fondness amongst friends in a given cross-section is not shared by all included in a given slice. This is hardly news; not everybody likes everybody. And not everybody likes me - fact and circumstance number one.
Over my nearly 47 years, I have cycled through a number of “friends.” Most were not anything of the sort; they were associates who cared more about what I had than who I was. To be perfectly fair, that’s what I cared about most as well – what I had, I had no idea who I was. It should come as no surprise that if I define my essence in such superficial terms, I would attract superficial friends. I was lucky enough that a few of those friends saw through the façade and are still my friends today. Most, however, moved on when the party was over and the well had run dry. It was not uncommon to be the “odd man out” for any number of reasons ranging from economic (not enough money) to social (too much drama) to logistical (too much trouble) or simply because no one thought of me. I am not referring to just myself, it was a cycle in which virtually everyone had a turn in the barrel. Sometimes, for reasons either malicious or unintentional, we are left out – fact and circumstance number two.
Two facts. Two circumstances. What conclusions can be drawn? What if I throw a party at my house and in my considerably large group of friends, somehow someone doesn’t get the word? It has happened and my response has always been a profuse apology with a reassurance that it was nothing intentional. What else can one say? It has to be enough and in fact it is. There is no conspiracy. Two plus two equals four. What about when the same thing happens to me, when I incidentally discover that I am the only one who doesn’t know about something I should have been in the loop on. What then?
Then two plus two starts to look a lot like five and it takes everything I can muster to stay logically centered. The perceived slight (for, these are the worst) casts a different light on what was, until moments before, the normal intercourse among a close-knit group of friends. Words begin to take on new meanings and that little glance? Nothing innocent about it now, right? But I cannot act on what my emotions and my senses are telling me – it is a lie. What is going on is a simple, albeit unhappy, coincidence and nothing more. To act on these perceptions based purely on what a temporarily wounded ego dictates would sooner or later create the very reality that my imagination, fueled by incomplete information, has figured out - all by itself.
Finally, now that the smoke has cleared, two plus two is once again firmly rooted in four. The lesson? Even for one who has conquered those demons that kept me away from myself for so long, the demons will not die. They will seize upon every opportunity to weaken my perception and step back into the insanity that they love so much. The truth is far less diabolical, less exciting and brings with it certain humility – I am just not that important to go through any exclusionary effort. Really.