I’m not a religious guy. I never have been, really, though I played the part in my younger days to make my parents feel better. That still holds true, as I make sure to diligently call my family on the holidays that are important to them, and try my best to not belittle their beliefs. For the most part, holidays are a good reason to talk with family and connect during those periods when it’s hard to spare the time. Easter was one of those days that I never missed, making sure to cheerfully wish my family a happy Easter even though it held no special meaning to me.
This year, I didn’t call anyone. I didn’t think much of it at first, as my day was packed full taking care of my daughter (she totally got the point of the Easter egg hunt right off the bet, because she’s a fucking genius), as well as chores around the house and errands out in the world. It wasn’t until earlier today that I really thought about it, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Easter was one of those holidays where I always called my brother first, chatting with him for a while before he made sure I called mom and dad. It always took convincing to get me to talk to dad, so his encouragement always helped. But this year, without him to talk to, I never got that push. I made one feeble attempt to contact my mom, but never followed up after she didn’t get to her phone. It was a small thing, but it made me acutely aware of the loss and sent me downhill fast today.
I ended up going in to work closer to 8 than my usual 7 as a result, and found out that the company that shares our office space gets there promptly at 8 every day. Usually, my entrance is pretty solitary. I have some silence to take stock and prepare for my day, and my office is usually completely empty, affording me some solitude to get my day going. As I had to force my way through a throng of strangers this morning, I realized how much of a jerk I must be coming across as. Not holding doors, not making eye contact, not even acknowledging their friendly nods, I was just trying to get inside and get a few breaths in. It made me realize how easy it is to assume the worst of someone, when really, they could be going through things you can’t possibly know about. It made me consider that on any given day, that random person that bumped you on the sidewalk might be going through the worst day of their life.
I recently wrote a post on living with hatred, and today I circled back to it. I’m still a little shaky on why I’m not filled with more rage at my brother’s murderer, and today got me thinking much harder on the subject. As with much of my worldview, I think it shakes down to fiction. On my top ten PS2 games (oh shit, the frivolous and the deep are overlapping, the streams have crossed!) I ranked Shadow Hearts: Covenant number one. There was never any doubt in my mind, as the game changed how I view characters in a story. You’ve always heard that a protagonist is not the same as a hero, meaning an anti-hero or even straight villain can be the focus of a story and still remain sympathetic. What Shadow Hearts showed me was that an antagonist can be utterly relatable, even heroic. An antagonist is at odds with the protagonist, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong.
To this day, that idea paints my idea of a great story. My favorite books and movies are those with relatable villains, and when I write stories with a clear antagonist I try to create that character as if they were the protagonist to start- sometimes even writing a short story from their point of view to make sure they are relatable before bringing them into another story. From the day I finished that game, I couldn’t fully enjoy any story with a mustache-twirling villain. I needed to understand them, even if I can still hate them.
Little did I know, this started painting my view of the world. Every person I pass is the protagonist of their life, and they believe all their actions justified. Whether it’s the pickup that just cut me off, or the woman that cart-rammed me at the supermarket, or even the friend that seems to be cold and callous for a day- I’ve started to realize that even they might have their reasons for their actions. No, I can’t pretend that murderer had good reason to leave his children alone and end my brother’s life. But in an odd way, it helps to realize this person took their own path to their unforgivable mistake. It means that dedicating my life to hating him is a waste of the time I have on Earth. Every day, it becomes easier to imagine a reason that co-worker seems unreasonable sometimes, or to realize that stubborn uncle might have his own struggles. That doesn’t mean rolling over when I disagree, but it does mean trying to see past their immediate actions and trying to resolve conflicts peacefully, rather than through aggression or argument.
Easy as this is to put down in writing, it’s still hard to live. I know my next week is going to have valleys, as it has every time I’ve really reflected on my brother. I know I’ll still get frustrated when that truck cuts me off, and I’ll still curse the server who gets my order wrong. But it makes it a little easier to stop that rage headache before it gets out of line. It helps me not spend every day of my life cursing a person that is not worth the time. And it’ll damn sure help me feel less guilty about days where I need my space.
Woof, things are getting too serious in here. Maybe I’ll circle back with another top ten or a fun little anime review next time. A person can only output so much dour before they need to come up for air.