Why walking away is making us assholes.
I’ve got nothing against Craig David, I actually like this song and I feel it is a good fit to go with today’s post. Today’s blog post comes from an incident that happened last night with a drunk lady outside the supermarket. I know, I know. You’re wondering how on earth is that related to Craig David. Just keep reading. Honestly, I ask myself how I end up in these situations, nevertheless, it gave me some material to chew on and I decided to share my thoughts today and you’ll soon find out why.
They say charity and change both starts at home. If you want to change the world, if you want to do good then start with your own family. Most families have their own issues, families are a super mini-microcosm of the world – a mixture of generations, personalities and perspectives and sometimes, despite being blood, people just don’t get on. We can’t choose our blood relatives, maybe your friends are more family to you, but I guess the point is we must look inwardly first and make changes there before we start preaching to the world about how to live our lives. Being a hypocrite isn’t going to get you far or look inspiring to others. You can’t pull weeds out of the world if you’re choking on the ones in your own back garden, right?
I get that it’s tough though and sometimes you can’t always kill the weeds in your own back garden. For some of us, it’s a constant battle at just keeping things manageable. I have my own family issues and drama and honestly, it’s one reason why I am living here in Germany and they (the family) are all over there (points to the island they call the United Kingdom) but I check in regularly, help where I can and I listen to them and offer advice. I always try to be there for friends and family whatever the time of day or night, including the times I had to go pick up my brother from several car-related accidents and other incidents because he was too afraid of my parents finding out.
People create problems. Life creates problems. There are always going to be problems and that’s not going to change. How we handle those problems and find solutions, well that’s the key to overcoming them and that’s how we change things in our lives. We learn and become stronger by actually overcoming problems by ourselves and/or with the help of others and that gives us a sense of accomplishment. We learn what works and what doesn’t. We learn how to figure things out, how to be resourceful and discover new skills we didn’t know we had. It all aids us in being independent, having common sense (which I see less and less of these days) and helps us to be more positive.
Sometimes people don’t listen or learn and they just repeat a destructive cycle or they don’t invest energy and time into finding the solutions, expect things to be handed to them on a plate, play the victim card or are in denial that the problem lies with them and they give up and walk away.
Problems often occur through a lack of communication. Of course, there are additional factors at play to consider but often the root cause of many issues is just because we didn’t open our mouths and say something at the time something happened, or we didn’t reach out for help and we avoided/ignored something or someone.
Simply put, we don’t communicate effectively.
It’s not that you don’t communicate at all, many of you do—I see people getting all irate over social media and harping on about every God damn niggly pet hate all over the internet and I’m guilty of that, too—but it’s the manner and art in which you communicate and the choice of words that make a difference. You can yell at someone, insult them, use profanities, criticize them, even mollycoddle them or be a total pushover afraid to speak your mind and stand up for yourself. Even staying silent and hiding away is communication. The lack of communication is still communication if you’re observant enough but is any of that effective? Is it coming across? Is the message being received loud and clear? Are you being heard and understood? Or has the other party switched off and put up a defensive guard?
It’s not about how much or how little you communicate but HOW you communicate and things like tone, body language, manner, choice of words and just your perspective can hinder your communication from being effective. Are you being respectful, loving and aware of the other person’s feelings whilst communicating how you feel? Are you suffering in silence?
Many people, after a fight, walk out. Usually, though, it’s temporary to get space and clear their heads. But when years and years of unhappiness ensue, eventually someone walks away. People leave because they don’t want to deal with negative energy anymore and are drained. Some people also leave at the first hurdle when the going gets tough, the road is a little bumpy and they realize that it’s not like in the movies. So they jump into the next relationship before they’ve even addressed the issues that led them away from the last one. Some haven’t even left the last relationship. If you’re into open relationships that’s fine but all parties should be on the same page and know about it. People don’t bother to look inwardly and reflect on their own actions and be accountable. They blame the other person in the relationship. They move onto the next person who can give them what they want and so the cycle continues. It’s a temporary fix.
Today it is easier to quit jobs, relationships and people and walk away. A throwaway society where no one puts in the effort any more but shifts blame onto anything and anyone except themselves. No one wants to get involved and no one wants to help another person. I see it at work, too. No one goes the extra mile. As soon as the clock strikes, pens drop and they’re out the door leaving a pile of work unfinished and customers unattended. We don’t have time. We don’t care. We’re all feeling under appreciated. We aren’t good enough. We aren’t pretty or successful or rich enough. We are all too focused on ourselves, on our ‘perfect’ brand image we are streaming online via social media platforms and wanting to feel special and loved 24/7 without giving anything in return. It’s all take, take, take. No one is giving. The pot isn’t being replenished. It’s empty.
We don’t want to get involved in drama or go below the surface to really know the person deep down. It’s got nothing to do with me and my life so why should I get involved or sit there listening to someone whining?”
For some, “love” is superficial and convenient, a bit of a pick me up to feel good without committing to the person. They don’t sign up to love the entire package. It’s about cherry picking and choosing the bits they like and weighing up whether or not they think they’ll do or trying to change that person into how they want them to be. It’s about how they make us feel when they are around us, how they affect us, what they give us, and not, how we are together and about making the other person happy. It is supposed to be about give and take and both investing in energy and love to create something special, not just one person taking all they can get.
Sometimes walking away is necessary. Sometimes it is a means of survival. I would never encourage anyone in an abusive relationship to stay. They need to get out, now. Also, if you have put in the effort, done everything you could and it just isn’t working then walking away probably is the best solution. I myself, am divorced, as are some of my friends and family. We are all different and have our own unique relationships and you have to judge what is best for you. I did a lot of research and reading on both, how to make a marriage work when it hits a rough patch, and separation, and how to prepare for what was to come if we chose the latter.
After 12 years together, it took 1.5 years to finally make the decision to end the marriage. To say the words “it’s over” aloud knowing you could never take them back and things would then be changed forever.
One book which was incredibly insightful, albeit I read it once I’d separated, was, “Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay” by Mira Kirshenbaum. Mira shows you through many real-life examples of how to make the right decision for you. She includes the answers too–those who stayed and those who left and what happened afterwards. She focuses on all kinds of relationships across all genders and presents the situation of why the couples were contemplating ending their relationships making it relatable. It will definitely confirm in your own mind if your marriage or partnership is salvable. I thoroughly recommend it and will do a blog post on separation and divorce soon.
Anyway, I digress.
We walk out. We leave. We don’t get involved. We walk on by. We walk away. We turn a blind eye. And this has consequences. It affects us, our families, our society.
OK, I hear you saying, “so where does the drunk lady at the supermarket come into this?” I know you’re pressed for time and want to get back to scrolling memes and picture perfect models on Instagram, I’ll start wrapping it up. This is all background info leading up to the big finale I promise.
So I went shopping last night after work. I was exhausted after doing a 10 hour day on 5 hours of sleep and had been up since 5 am. I’m not a morning person by the way so give me dues. I walk out with my bag of groceries and see a lady fall over in the middle of the two-lane road. Instinctively I rushed over to help. She was a big lady, small in stature but weighty. An Italian guy crossed the road and the two of us managed after two attempts to get her to her feet at the edge of the curb between parked cars. No one else stopped by. I asked her if she was hurt or in pain, kept her talking to assess her mental state and asked a bunch of questions to ascertain if she was ill, on medication, had chest pain or low blood sugar. I’m not a doctor but I had to decide if I should phone an ambulance or was this just a clumsy fall.
I didn’t realize she was drunk until quite some time later. I couldn’t smell the alcohol on her breath but once I saw the empty wine bottle hidden in her bag and she confessed she’d guzzled the lot, all the symptoms fitted together. The Italian guy had fetched some water for her but as soon as we deduced that she was drunk he took back the water and disappeared. I guess he had no time for drunks.
No one else came to help. I was there for 1.5 hours with my shopping bags on the floor. My gluten free pizza slowly defrosting. No one bothered to check if she was ok. People walked by and others drove past. This lady was upset. She was crying and emotional. In broken German, she told me she was from Hungary, is 66 years old, has 5 grown up kids and her husband of 30 years left her 5 months ago for a younger Italian woman and she hasn’t seen him since. She said she wants to die and end her life. I listened to her sobbing and felt sadness and slight alarm when she said she wanted to die. It resurrected the memories of my dad and my friend Ludmila who both committed suicide over relationships. Her shoe had come off so I put that back on her and just held her hand. She’d been drinking to numb the pain. She didn’t know where she was and couldn’t remember where she lived. She didn’t want me to call anyone. She was embarrassed but also said there were too many issues in her family and she didn’t want to see them. I can respect that without knowing the details.
It didn’t end there though and there was some drama. Once she was feeling a little better and could stand I phoned a taxi for her, even offered to pay for it but she turned surly and nasty once the taxi arrived. She became aggressive and argued with the taxi driver and he got mad at me for calling a taxi and wasting his time. Here we were on a Saturday evening outside a supermarket and I am trying to be a good citizen and get her home safe and sound and she turned on me and now was refusing to get in the taxi and started insulting me. She didn’t even know who I was or what I was doing. She didn’t want to go home. She was a different person entirely. I probably should have phoned the police at that point. But after 1.5 hours I didn’t want to wait another 30 minutes for the police to show up, take a statement and then tell me off for wasting valuable police time. I was exhausted. The taxi driver gave me back my money and told me to go home. I don’t know if he took her home, she’d already started staggering off somewhere else shouting profanities as we were trying to deescalate the situation. Up to that point, I thought I was doing a good job but it was a failed attempt and I ended up going home feeling annoyed at myself, at her, at her family and at the world in general.
I told a couple of friends because I needed to just decompress and process what happened and they berated me for being stupid for getting involved. They told me she could have hurt me. That I put myself in danger and wasted my own time and I have only myself to blame. They said this is why I only have shit in my life and am distracted constantly. That I am not focused and am too nice. That I’m too British.
It’s got nothing to do with being British. The Italian guy helped. The Indian taxi driver was lovely and was trying to help me help her, too. Although he did confess he’d never experienced a stranger offering to pay someone’s taxi ride. And since when was being nice a problem? So I am supposed to be an arrogant asshole (pronounced arsehole in British English) like them and not give a fuck about anyone but myself? That I am to walk past and leave a woman lying in the middle of the road? What kind of message is that sending to our kids?
We are teaching our kids to be egoistic, ignorant assholes and to walk away when things get uncomfortable.”
Fuck that. Sorry, but I will never just walk by someone in distress. And if it holds me back in life then fair enough. I’d rather do that than be someone cold hearted. I’m humanitarian. It just isn’t in me to ignore things like that. We take risks every day, simply driving to work or crossing a road might get us killed. Yes, this lady could have hurt me. She didn’t. It was a risk that never even entered my head until she turned surly. But it’s one I’d probably take again. I see all these religious people going to church, mosques and synagogues etc. learning about how to be better people and live in a peaceful harmonious world yet they, too walk by shaking their heads in disapproval and don’t help. People are not practising what they learn or preach and they are certainly not leading by example. It’s not a dig at religion, it’s a dig at everyone. At people in general regardless of your religion, age, gender, sexual preference etc.
I don’t know the reasons why her marriage ended. But she was upset enough to drink herself into a stupor and no one was there for her. Next time I find myself in a similar situation I won’t hesitate to phone the police. The professionals are there for a reason. They have the training and can handle situations like that better. Today, she will wake up with one hell of a hangover and probably not even recall me or the events that happened. But in that moment last night, she needed someone to help her up and listen to her. She needed some positive energy, kindness and support. And just a friend to listen to her slurred words.
I ask myself where are her friends and family? Why aren’t they supporting her and distracting her with visits or giving her encouragement? How about helping her get therapy or join an AA group if the drinking has become a regular occurrence? Some people bottle things up and don’t ask for help. Some hide it. I’m not saying we should all go around asking people if they need help but if you look close enough, if you know someone well enough, you will usually see signs that something is amiss and just checking in on someone now and then can make all the difference.
Taking time out of our day to give a fuck might actually save someone’s life.”
And you can’t see it online or in a text message. Get up off your asses, get off your phones, go to that person’s house and actually see them in person. Take in their surroundings, assess their current state and actually have a face to face conversation with them. Practice the art of holding a conversation, being civil and being observant, not oblivious.
I’ve fainted a few times. I fainted twice in a supermarket (Edeka) here in Germany, and once in Tescos in England. Both times I ended up on the floor shaking and sweating, white as a sheet. Staff walked past me ignoring me. Shoppers reached for items above my head and pushed their trollies on as normal. No one stopped to check on me and ask if I was ok. What is wrong with people?!!
Leading up to my dad’s death, I contacted his brothers for help and advice. Dad wasn’t listening to us kids and he was in a state. Reaching out to family, to my uncles who were dad’s generation and who might be able to reassure me in my panicked state, I thought would help. Our family, especially the cousins, like to throw the phrase around, “blood is thicker than water” but I realise this only works when it suits them. Because none of my uncles or relatives phoned my dad. They didn’t drive down and check on him. They didn’t take him out and talk to him. They told me the issue is between my parents and it wasn’t their place to get involved. Is that British awkwardness or just avoiding uncomfortable emotional stuff? They sympathised and were sorry to hear about the problems and hoped things would sort themselves out soon.
We switched off the life support machines a week later and my siblings, mum and I watched dad die. I guess things sorted themselves out. Maybe dad had already made up his mind at that point and we couldn’t have changed the outcome. But maybe we could have made a difference and gotten him help if more people had tried. I cannot stand that “blood is thicker than water” saying. I have had friends feel more like family and help me than my own blood.
And Ludmila didn’t tell anyone. No one knew of her secret. No one knew she would end her life. No one saw it coming. She hid everything and never opened up. I feel I failed her but she needed to learn to trust me and want to be helped. It’s a two-way street.
People don’t want to get involved because it inconveniences them.”
One day you might need help, too. And you might be grateful that a stranger stopped and helped. We’ve all had those nights where we drank too much or tried to numb our pain with other things or just had too much of a good time and ended up in a state. And many of us have lost our footing along the way and fallen down a large canyon emotionally. Sometimes life throws rocks at you and you fall. You just need to get back up again and keep going and it helps if you have someone who wants to lift you up and see you succeed, not look at you with pity, shame, embarrassment and judgement.
My dad taught me the phrase, “a problem shared is a problem halved” so love thy neighbour, listen to them and help point them in the right direction. Don’t walk away unless you really have to. Two heads are better than one and often we bounce ideas off one another and can shed light on things from various experiences and backgrounds just by spending time talking. They might just be feeling down and need a shoulder to cry on or there might be some other issues under the surface. And if we give more of a shit, make better decisions, invest quality time and loving energy into our relationships then we might actually avoid situations where people we once loved drink themselves to almost death to numb the pain inflicted on them by our selfish actions. If you have to walk away from someone, then try not to leave an aftermath of pain and emotional damage behind.
As a last note: I’d like to thank all the emergency services and social workers, charity volunteers and fellow passersby who help people struggling on a regular basis, you are amazing! I honestly, don’t know how you do it, especially when dealing with drunk, aggressive, surly and suicidal people and still remain calm and focused. I was drained after an hour! Thank you for your dedication and commitment to your jobs so that people like me can rely on you to take over and save the day with your expertise.