There is a person in my life, who I will call Tiffany. Tiffany is a friend of the family, and not someone I could easily eject from my life as my son spends time with her kids, and there are regular family events that we both get invited to. She has an aggressive, controlling personality, a bad temper, a potty mouth, and a habit of lashing out and stabbing for someone’s weakest points on a semi-regular basis. Tiffany is a deeply unhappy person and not a founding member of my fanclub. She denigrates me to family and friends at regular intervals in the crassest terms possible.
This is difficult for me… Sure there are people I get along with better than others, but I don’t generally have adversaries. It is very unusual for me to have someone who actively dislikes me. As a rule, I’m reasonably non-confrontational.
Fortunately, I’m aware that Tiffany doesn’t have many allies in her denigration, and her hyperbolic rantings don’t hurt me. (They’re annoying, to be sure, but I’m not emotionally invested in her opinion of me.) I do care about the aura of toxicity that her attitude has on other family members and on her children who are aware of her active dislike, which I have to believe causes them some discomfort.
Weirdly, my situation with Tiffany has provided a helpful mirror for some of less attractive traits. I can be controlling. (I’m the middle child of seven. My personal philosophy is “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”) Seeing Tiffany’s example, I’ve learned top stop and consider if I’m steamrolling over a situation because I’m not listening as well as I should. (This has improved my relationship with both my son’s dad and my fellow.) I can be quick to lose my temper (especially if I’m tired.) Tiffany’s example has made me more carefully contemplate my words before I let them free. This has helped me significantly improve my relationship with my mother who shuts down at negative words. Seeing the way Tiffany’s pernicious attitude effects her children makes me aware to bite my tongue in front of my son when I’d rather be catty (which hopefully makes me a better mother.)
I’m endeavoring to find the silver lining (the rainbow in the storm cloud, if you will) in my relationship with Tiffany, who might not be serving as a good example, but has served as a warning of what not to be.