I realized today how much I have surrounded myself with the better things in life. By this I don't mean material objects, I mean the things that really count in life. I have an incredibly supportive husband who brings me flowers randomly and does the dishes on the weekends. I have great parents, and an amazing sister. I have kids who draw cards for me to thank me for working hard and leave them under my pillow so I'll find them when I go to bed. I have good friends.
I read good books; mostly I read ones that make me want to be a better person, make me laugh or feel good about people, or make me think about God and family and life in a new way. I choose to watch mostly TV that is uplifting.
I take pictures of the beautiful things around me: the flowers and trees and fireworks that celebrate the birth of our country and the courage of the founders who set out to do something no one had yet dared to dream. Dogs and tigers, butterflies and neon lights. I love to capture the sun as it's setting, reflecting in someone's eyes, and the way light dances on the water and clouds languish in the sky.
I listen to music that makes me sing and dance, brings back good memories, that make me smile.
And so, when ugliness encroaches on my life, it almost always catches me off guard. The angry driver who somehow found something I did offensive. Kids who are just mean because they get a kick out of it. Writers who join writer's group intent on creating discord and slashing not only a writer's writing but the writer himself as a person.
This is the case the last two weeks in my FLI group. Flurries of emails, hateful comments, rude, snarky remarks, personal attacks. I tried to ignore the ones aimed at me, but when the comments caused others to start leaving the group, I began to speak up. And doing so put a huge target on my back. My words were distorted and blatantly changed. He could not have come at me any harsher had he been wielding a sword. If we lived 150 years ago he would have challenged me to a duel, no doubt, and shot me on the count of two. And then stabbed me fifty times for good measure. Because he can't just let things go.
So I did. I'm bowing out, temporarily at least. There is not enough time in life to fight battles that don't need to be fought, with people who fight merely for the sake of it and not for any grander purpose. I realized today that I could have written ten pages of my own work in the time I spent on emails today, to him, and to others in the group trying to mediate and draw some back in who have left because of him. Hours lost in the last two weeks equate to pages lost, and I'd rather write, even if badly, than not write at all.
It's not that I don't know the world is harsh. I know many rejections are probably in the future before the publication. I know getting published only opens a writers to more criticism. I know a great many people won't like my writing. I'm okay with that. I know a great many people may not even like me. I'm not as okay with that, but I can live with it. But I choose, when I can, not to put myself directly in the path of people who set out to be ugly and vicious, or those who can't tell the difference between being nice and mean.
I closed the computer and left the mess behind for a dinner with family. For several hours I was surrounded again by the best things in life, and while I put my kids to bed, we prayed, as we always do. And I realized how great my own life is, how much love I have around me, and that my strength is in God. And how sad this singular man's life is that his purpose is to make others miserable. And so I gave it up. And I prayed for him, and asked God to give me strength to reply with grace and humility and love and not out of my own anger or hurt. And I let the goodness of God wash away the day.
And when I went to open my computer again, there was an email from the administrator asking this individual not to comment any more in the group and that he would be moved into his own group where people who felt like minded could join him if they wanted. I felt... relieved, I suppose. But not triumphant or overjoyed. Because our lives go on, and so does his, none the different. His unhappiness will rub against others, and he will remain discontent and aggressive.
And there is so much better out there for him.