Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Backing Out

A friend from 30 years ago re-acquainted herself with me via Facebook a couple of months ago.  It was a friendship that ended badly in 1989, with her dumping me via a letter sent in through the mail.  Her reasons seemed to have as much to do with superiority as anything else, like our friendship had been a competition and she was declaring herself the winner, with the new husband and baby, the house and a whole new life as the obvious proof of her success.

For years, I hesitated to make friends with other females (I had a LOT of guy friends), believing any one of them could turn on me in a heartbeat like she did and write me a poison pen letter, telling me how shitty my life was, how awesome hers was, and asking me to never contact them again -- for no actual reason other than the vague "I've changed."

But I digress.  So my friend reconnected with me.  I accepted, hesitantly.  Some uneasy (at least on my part) communication happened, and then a couple of things were said -- just offhand things -- which made me realize this was a person I would never be able to trust and if there's no trust, what's the point of having any kind of relationship?

And so I threw the proverbial car into reverse and peeled out of her life like Satan was sitting on my rear bumper. And in a way, she was. This is something I've found myself doing more and more as I get older and my intuition screams a lot louder than it used to.  It's never completely rash, I let it percolate awhile to see if it goes away or lessens. But if the red warning lights going off in my head don't let up, I get out of the situation without hesitation.

I'm pleased I had the courage to give my old acquaintance a second chance, but I'm happy I spotted her self-destructive issues a mile away and put some quick distance between me and them.

I also backed out of accepting a job offer several months ago in roughly the same way -- I had an immediate, visceral upwelling of emotion that told me this was the wrong way to go, and I listened to it. They offered to adjust my hours. I refused (politely).  They doubled the salary offer. I again refused (I was still polite, but also flattered).  And I have not regretted it for one moment.

That's because many, many other times I have not heeded those feelings and have found myself in dire circumstances.  So I guess it's safe to say that something I've learned over the years is that -- sometimes -- quitting is OK. No, it's not just OK, sometimes quitting can be the best thing you can do for yourself. It can be great. But you don't hear that very often.

That's because quitting is not in our cultural make-up.  Americans are no quitters, dammit!  We make a commitment, we stay the course, and we emerge victorious! But you don't live life as an American.  You live it as a human being.  And sometimes, backing out of a situation you got yourself into is the wisest thing you can do.

As another friend once said in the following great analogy, "If your house is on fire, there is nothing wrong with running out of it. You are not abandoning your house.  You are saving your life."  

And this happens in both big and small ways, throughout our lives. Sometimes we stay the course, and sometimes the building is on fire and we just need to get the hell out before the roof falls in on us.

I believe this also applies on the homestead.  Sometimes, things are not always worth doing badly, just to say you're doing them.  You need to be really honest with yourself about whether or not you've given it your best, but if you have and you just don't like what's going on, it's OK to change. It's OK to not grow okra if okra never works for you.  It's OK to give up soapmaking if your soap comes out like jello every time. It's even OK to give up your land if you're physically, financially, or otherwise not able to work it.

 It's also OK to just not like something enough to want to keep doing it.

Sometimes I think that we lash ourselves to the mast on too many things, and force ourselves into death marches with people, employers, and tasks that are actually replaceable with other, better things.

The Car of Life comes with a reverse gear for a reason.  You should never back out as much as you move forward in life, but sometimes you need to realize backing out of something is the only way to save your life, be it your financial life, your emotional life, or even your physical life.

Just check your mirror to make sure you're not accidentally backing into something else you don't want to run into, get yourself clear, shift back into "D," and hit the road.  

And happy motoring.


  1. I agree with everything said!

  2. Thank you for this post. I had just been thinking about how being laid off might've been a blessing, as the company hasn't been making the greatest decisions and is losing customers to the competition.

    After your post, I'm now visualizing being escorted out of a building filled with gasoline tanks and rags. And somewhere in that building, someone is playing with matches.

    1. Angela, I think gals like us have lived long enough to know when something is just not right. I'm sorry you got laid off, but hopefully the timing is right and now you're not going to be there when the whole thing comes crashing down. You'll be safely away from it all, and hopefully onto better things.

  3. Good for you. Sometimes reading something like this comes at just the right time. Earlier this month, I blocked my ex's number. He would reach out to me inconsistently and in a confused state, often leaving me very upset. Then one night I was sitting there reading one of his texts and said out loud "FU*K THIS." and blocked him. No fanfare, no warning, no drama...very unStephenlike. And it felt good. Like I lost about 180 pounds! Amputating people is a bizarre experience, and even harder in this day and age, but sometimes the best answer. I'm glad you had the chance to connect with her again, and this time end the relationship with more clarity.

    1. What a great story. "Amputating" someone is exactly the right term, I suppose if it was the wrong person you'd feel the loss, like the loss of an arm. But amputating the right person feels like losing an floppy, useless appendage that's getting in the way, or hurting, or that's numb. It's liberating, and you are right, its a weight that is over a hundred pounds lol!