Last night at a Location That I'll Leave Nameless For The Moment, someone went off on how he was annoyed at how certain people had mistaken Thing A for Thing B and that was Just Not Right.
In an earlier more confrontational life, I might have lit into him, even gently. But last night, I said something that I think he's very rarely had said to him:
I told him he was right; that confusion or no as to the exactitude of Thing nomenclature (I saw the same confusion that he saw), there were things not related to the confusion that those who were confused had to deal with, which took a higher priority for their deliberations, and their confusion had nothing to do with their decision making; but nonetheless, he was completely correct.
No anger, no agenda of slipping revenge in through the back door; no riposte of any kind. A simple statement of fact: he was right.
A lot of things have, and are, happening to me because of the M.S. journey. My muscles--my legs worst of all, but all over my body--are simply wasting away. I'm often unsure whether I'm going to be able to walk, to stand up. To do all sorts of things I've always taken for granted that are just ... evaporating.
And yet... it is much easier, easier than ever before, to not take somebody on, to not contend merely for the pleasure of me being right. And we're not in the season of Earth yet, but I feel its energy, and I find it sympathetic to me, and it's helping me to be sympathetic to others.
Contending simply for a position of "intellectual correctness" is something I've done all my life. I'm not by any means completely "over it," but person to person, face to face, the uncontrollable instinctive drive to contend is fading.
When I talk to students, even when I have to talk to them about things they've done wrong, I find myself beginning with ... sympathy. It certainly doesn't mean that I let them get away with doing wrong things, but I begin with sympathy. There certainly was a reason why they did whatever they did, and sometimes what they need most is simply to have someone listen. The "you did X wrong, and there's a price for that" comes separately; but they certainly appreciate the difference between talking to them and talking about what they did.
Muscle wasting... and ability to extend sympathy. A very strange pair of gifts of M.S., is it not?