Life gets hard.

I won’t say it doesn’t because that would be a big fat lie, and I gave up big fat lies for Lent.  Along with medium skinny lies and smallish topsy-turvy ones.  And spinach.  Because eating spinach inevitably leads to lying about it tasting good, so there wasn’t really a choice there.

But I digress.

The fact that life gets hard is only earth shattering to those rare souls entirely insulated from interaction with the human race (which would be, let’s see, a party of…none).  The rest of us regular folks get it.  Life comes with pain and hardship and discomfort and anger, but that’s the deal we make to balance out all the joy life brings us, too.

I thought this was one of those lessons learned along the path to adulthood, right up there with life’s not always fair and big dreams take hard work.  You know, generally accepted knowledge. Turns out I might have been wrong about that one.

It messes with the balance of the universe when the going gets tough and people muck things up (as we all do from time to time).  Not in an existential, “you’ve thrown life’s yin and yang out of balance and calamity is inevitable” kind of way.  It’s more like you’ve created a charged environment, one that crackles with animosity and holds limitless potential for cascading conflict.

In other words, you screwed up.  Now everything’s off, and until you make it right again you’ll most likely keep screwing up, ensuring your relationship continues to be off, heightening the potential for more screw ups…you see the cyclical nature of the problem?

Here’s a handy dandy comparison chart to help illustrate my point:

You got in a doozy of an argument with Penelope.  You were hurt, angry, and said some cruel and hurtful things.  All communication between the two of you has broken down.

Plan A:

  • You refuse to discuss the fight.
  • You don’t apologize.
  • The problem festers.
  • Everything seems to turn into another argument.
  • Eventually the relationship disintegrates into a series of fights or dissolves entirely.

Plan B:

  • You talk with Penelope about the fight.
  • You accept responsibility for any pain you caused.
  • You discuss the issue that caused the argument in the first place.
  • The problem’s resolved and the air is cleared.

Seems pretty clearcut, right?  One of these paths leads to a total breakdown in communication; the other not only restores the relationship but opens up the possibility for better rapport.  As far as I’m concerned that’s a no brainer.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that the whole “talk things through after a big fight” isn’t exactly the most comfortable situation to be in, but it is what it is.  Life gets hard.  But the bad comes with the good, and when things get bad you have to step up and do the work.

You know what surprised me this week?  That I’m still surprised to find there are people who won’t do the work.  That they expect things to settle out and magically go back to normal (AKA let’s pretend I didn’t call you a bitch and just go on our merry way, shall we?) without spending a single uncomfortable moment dealing with the problem.

There were many years when I would have rolled with this, too.  I was fluent in passive-aggressive behavior management – disagreements popped up, tempers flared, then everyone simply ignored that it ever happened.  It seems I’ve lost my special skills in that particular area, but I’m feeling pretty okay with that.

See, here’s the thing…you gotta show up.  When life gets rough and a relationship hits the skids, you have to show up and do the work.  Spitting insults and then burying your head in the sand, waiting for the storm to blow over, simply isn’t going to get you very far in the world.  It sure won’t get you where you want to be.

I was almost certain this was one of those entering adulthood lessons…someone really ought to write a book.