Everyone has their own way of looking at a life, and we rarely see the same thing when we view the same situation. Where one person will see a bland picture, another will see it differently, finding beauty. Who we are affects what we see.
The NRA sees gun ownership as essential to freedom and safety; others see gun control as essential to peace and harmony. Who is right? It depends on your perspective; in some ways they both are. But when we have to share space with someone with a vastly different viewpoint of everything, it seems like we are in totally different realities. How do we handle it?
I’ve seen several different ways: fight them, join them, or maintain our space. For example, I had a friend whose mother had dementia. She constantly sought to return her mother to the way of life that they shared, helping her to recall people she once loved and things that had been important to her most of her life. Piece by piece, the illness overcame her until she no longer remembered how to maintain life. But the daughter struggled and worked constantly to keep her mother in this reality as much as she could.
Another friend’s father has Alzheimer’s and she makes no attempt to keep him in this reality. Looking around his care home, he often thinks he’s working at the bank. Rather than explain that he is in a nursing facility, she talks to him as if she works at the bank too or is a customer. When he tries to leave, she talks about staying until closing time. He understands, stops trying to elope the facility, and quickly forgets his desire to leave. She chose to join her father in whatever reality he was in.
When the situation is less extreme, and we’re talking holiday visits with family members that we don’t relate to, I’ve seen a few people who are able to maintain their own reality without accepting the other person’s point of view, to keep the peace. Is it comfortable? Not exactly, but it may be far more comfortable than arguing about conflicting ways of life, politics, or religion. When the relatives talk about a vastly different political agenda, it’s hard, but I can choose not to join in. If the group is large enough, I can (and sometimes do) read my cell phone or begin a conversation with someone else. I can check out of their zealous diatribe without challenging it or arguing. If they want to find a shared conversation, they can change the subject. Sometimes I just state, “let’s agree to disagree” and suggest that we move to a new topic. I don’t need to convince anyone that their way is wrong and my way is right. We can co-exist while being different.
Sometimes I can vastly disagree with someone’s decision, but not argue about it. It isn’t any of my business, and I have no right to ask them to change their life to match my point of view. I can allow them to be who they are while I am different. It can be tiring, but I can no longer enter someone else’s reality that doesn’t match my way of life. I am finally wise enough to see that they can’t join me in a different point of view, either. I can’t believe how long it has taken me to get here.