In light of the recent events with Hurricane Sandy and the situation in Israel, I decided to write about something that is very important to me. I’m not going to sugar-coat it because this is just not a sugar-coating time right now. Several of my friends in New York have lost their homes and many of their worldly possessions and many of my friends and family members in Israel have spent the last week or two grabbing their loved-ones and running underground to safety in packed bomb shelters. It is at times like these that I take step back and ask myself, “Life is so valuable; what are we really living for?”
So here is one of my biggest pet peeves (maybe the biggest): people with something that I like to call “I Disease.” What is “I Disease?” “I Disease” is a condition which causes some people to feel the need to constantly talk only about themselves, and rarely ask about other people. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who goes on and on about their job, their family, their kids, their hobbies and ends the conversation without asking you a single question about your life or well-being? I think we can all relate to what I am saying on some level. The truth is, some people have social disorders such as social anxiety or high-functioning Asperger’s Disease which causes them to be impaired when it comes to social graces, so their lack of understanding of what is socially appropriate is not their fault.
However, there are others without these conditions but who just don’t seem to know any better. Or maybe they just don’t get it. Some people just think that inviting people to their homes to listen to them go on and on about themselves is actually entertaining and welcoming; provided they serve good food, of course.
How many times have you been part of a group of or even just witnessed a group of people who sit around and talk AT each other. They just throw information about themselves at each other without actually stopping to listen or respond to what the others are saying, and without bothering to ask about each other. How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and one or both of you are talking but you are also busy with your Blackberries or I-Phones, thus giving each other only half of your attention, or only half a conversation? Is this quality time? Are these quality relationships?
This all leads me to wonder, if this is the way people function these days, how well do they really get to know each other and how meaningful are their relationships/friendships? Are your relationships based on the fact that you actually care about each other or are they based on the fact that you are able to shout information about yourselves at each other in the hope that the other person hears part of what you are saying? Most importantly, if this is the way people function nowadays, and these are the kinds of relationships people have, what are we really living for?
I know someone in my life who is a lot like this. My understanding is that she just doesn’t know any other way to be. The entire time I have known her, she has not once asked me how I met my husband, what I do for a living or what my hobbies are. If I choose to follow her lead and provide unsolicited information about myself and talk AT her the way she does, she cuts me off mid-sentence, says “that’s nice,” and shifts her focus to something else. For some reason, she can’t figure out why I’m not so receptive to the idea of her coming and visiting or spending more time with me.
One of the main principles of the nature of relationships and friendships is, “A relationship is as strong as its weakest link.” If one or both parties in a relationship suffers from “I disease,” the relationship will automatically be shallow and weak with very little meaning to it. It is impossible to have a meaningful relationship with someone who doesn’t truly care about you. The bare essentials of the relationship were never there!
Now, please excuse my rant because, as you can tell, I feel very strongly about this topic. But is this what people really want out of life? Or do they just not know any differently?
For me, this is not what I want at all. I have learned more about meaning in life and marital and family values just by talking WITH my Nepali nanny over the past few months that she has worked for us than I have from some people I have known for years. What I mean by talking WITH her is that I ask her questions and she talks and then she asks me questions and I talk. We are genuinely interested in what each other has to say. We learn from each other. We grow by listening to each other and internalizing what we learn. These are the kinds of relationships I want to have in my life.
This is the kind of life that I want; a life with meaning and depth, a life with love and caring and true friendships where I can gain so much from the people around me just by listening and internalizing what they share with me. Life is so short and time is so fleeting. In a time when we never know what is going to happen from one day to the next, do you ever stop and ask yourself,
“What am I living for?”
Let us all pray for those who have lost so much from Hurricane Sandy and for those who are fighting for safety and peace in Israel. Here’s to a meaningful Shabbos.