Shell Shocked: How to rid yourself of too many people in your life
Each of us has many people in our lives. It’s time to do some housecleaning, the same kind of process we each go through when we’ve accumulated too many objects in our homes. We spend a full day going through closets and drawers and throwing out stuff we never use and don’t believe we’ve even seen before. We feel fully satisfied that we’ve created sufficient new space to pack our closets and drawers with new stuff that will never be used or seen again either.
We need to go through the same process with the excess people in our lives. We need to marginalize all those we don’t like, have no use for, and will never see. This exercise serves a number of functions. It reduces the number of Christmas cards we need to send out each year. It minimizes the names of people in our inner as well as outer circles. And it eliminates the need to remember the names of people we will never see.
Here’s the marginalizing remedy I use. I’ve sent my first email to someone who will no longer be welcome in my life.
Gladys, it’s taken me many years to say this. You are a boring person with nothing much to say. Your discourses on weather reports, sales at Macy’s, earlybird specials and shopping channel discoveries have taken a toll on me. Whenever I see you in person, I have hallucinations that I’m a prisoner of war and you’re interrogating me on where I bought my shirts, who does my hair, if I have an ingrown toenail, and if my dandruff gets in my food.
I simply cannot take any more of you and want you out of my life. I am embarked on an exercise to clean out my life closet. Please do not contact me anymore. No emails, phone calls, texting, tweeting and letters. Do I make myself clear?
And then I got a response from Gladys.
Gladys here. Got your email. I think I know why you’re upset. When we last spoke, I called you out on your claim to being a descendant of Millard Fillmore, a nineteenth-century U.S. president. I referred to him as the worst president we ever had and you got all huffy. Art, realize this. Just because Millard Fillmore is the worst president we ever had, that doesn’t make you a bad person. I’ll see you at the bowling alley the usual time next week.
There you go again. First of all, I’m not related at all to Millard Fillmore. But I am related to James K. Polk. See, you don’t even remember who my ancestor is. That’s how much you know about me. But you still don’t get it, do you? I find you repugnant and insulting. Your view of the world exceeds the lowest level of banality. You’re more interested in today’s weather than you are in life’s more important issues. I can’t get around the fact that my conversations with you are like having symptoms of a stroke. I won’t subject my health, self-esteem or sense of well being by staying in touch with you. This is goodbye forever.
Polk, Schmolk. So I got it wrong. Well, if Millard Fillmore was the worst president we ever had, then James Polk comes in a close second. I don’t care if he was related to you. What did he ever do for our country? He did nothing to be remembered for except belch after a good meal. I get the sense that your medications aren’t working. You must be mistaking me for someone else. You and I have always gotten along well ever since we met on the line at Carnegie Deli. You’ve always laughed at my jokes and appreciated the advice I gave you on which deodorants to use. For the sake of our enduring friendship, I will not give in to your ranting and raving. I do this for your sake, not mine. Like I said, I’ll meet you at the usual time at the bowling alley next week. Don’t even think about trying to beat me. That’ll be the day.
Gladys, you’re not getting it. Our friendship is over. You are on my list of marginalized people who need to leave my life. I simply can’t stand anything about you. I hate the way you speak. I hate the way you look. We have nothing in common anymore except bowling. You need to take a good look at yourself in the mirror. If you see what I see, then you’ll start hating yourself as much as I do.
Okay, you got this out of your system. Will Bob, Will, Harriet and Sally be joining us at the bowling alley?
I’m not sure yet. I’m thinking about marginalizing them as well.
Please let me know in advance. The Italian restaurant needs to know how many for dinner.
Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.