Yesterday was a day that tested me, in many ways.
First, I had this technically challenging thing to do at work. I was a bit nervous as the day started, and by lunchtime had worked myself up into a chest-pounding, headache-having ball of stress. At lunch, I realized that I was psyching myself out, needlessly, and resolved to just plug through what I needed to do. By the end of the day, I was feeling pretty confident that I was on top of the thing.
Then there was this email we received from a podcast listener. Sometimes we get mails that are, well, challenging. He started out by complimenting us, then admitted he only listened to the beginnings of shows, never listening all the way through, asked me several questions he would have had the answer to if he had listened to the aforementioned shows, and then went off, declaiming on topics related to the relationship between ageplay and actual children, as well as caregivers and the elderly, in a way that made my skin crawl.
I took a deep breath, counted to a large number, and then responded back to him with compassion, trying to be helpful where I could, and shutting down the parts of the conversation I found inappropriate. Later in the day, he wrote me back, and much of what I had to say seemed to go in one ear and out the other.
Then later that evening, just before bed, I got the heads up on a similarly challenging thread in the podcast's fetlife group.
Every so often we see threads around this subject, which, in brief, goes something like this: "I think the way I ageplay isn't sexual, and not a fetish, and I'm tired of being lumped in with all you perverts. If only you/the community/the world/foreign dignitaries/my sixth grade social studies teacher could act differetly, then I could be happy, and the world would be perfect."
Okay, to be fair, that's a pretty snarky thing I just said. I think I can be a tad snarky in my own blog, if nowhere else.
I read the thread all the way through, and after more deep breaths, thoughtful introspection, and a little bit of counting to ten, I responded to it politely, and then shut it down. An interestingly gratifying thing about the thread is that many of the responses to the original post were really thoughtul, balanced, and compassionate. There's a maxim that Spacey and I have about the show, and a message we broadcast loudly, which is that if you want acceptance from others, you must first give it.
Anyhow, that all sounds like an exhausting mess, why would I possibly be grateful for it? Because these moments are among those which most help me to know myself.
I'm an intelligent, reasonable, compassionate man. I need challenges and testing to experience these things, and to hone myself. I can't recall who said it, but I once heard someone say "It's easy to love and have compassion for people who like you, or are easy to get along with. Difficult people are a blessing."
Sometimes I'm the difficult person, even to myself. I spent a good couple of hours torturing myself because I felt stupid earlier in the day.
I don't need challenging people to be less challenging. Unwittingly, they become a sort of workout for my compassion muscles. I'm grateful for them.