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Catherine Durkin Robinson: I annoy people. You might be annoying, too

I have a confession to make: I annoy people.

I know. You’re totally surprised.

I don’t annoy people on purpose, but that doesn’t really matter. Intent is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, I annoy people…simply being me.

This isn’t something I’m necessarily proud of or take any joy in – it simply is.

When I meet someone new, they often say, “Oh I love how outspoken you are” or “Wow, you are great, just speaking your mind” or even “I love your columns.”

They have just read or heard something with which they agree. Guaranteed.

I always think and usually say, “Wait until I write about something with which you disagree, like how most women should work outside the home. You’ll lose your mind. I give it six weeks.”

Because inevitably I will say or write something that I think is spot on, only to hear it’s not so great. That I’m not so great. From several people.

I will hear, “Yeah, you went over the line there” and “That pissed me off” along with, “Why don’t you shut up?”

I’m not alone.

Are you opinionated? Do you avoid small talk and discuss matters of importance? Do you spend not an ounce of energy trying to be what others expect of you because it’s challenging enough to be yourself?

Do you think it’s important to look yourself in the eye when brushing your teeth at night?

Well, then, I have some news.

You annoy people, too.

This has been a particularly active month – even for me. In fact, I can count about five loved ones who ended the old year and began the new one with a big old stink bomb of disgust for your favorite blogger.

All of them annoyed with me…for being me.

Unfortunately I can’t really apologize. I mean, I sincerely do feel sorry “for all my shortcomings” and wish they weren’t annoyed with me. These people are loved ones for a reason.

But I can’t really do anything about their annoyance.

And neither can you.

I’m older than Disney World and have been…difficult…since before I was born. So – change is out. I won’t beat myself up. Not for this list of reasons why I’m currently on five different shit lists:

• I wrote a column about family.

• I don’t interact enough with children under the age of five and have been known to cook vegan food. If celebrations were held out of town, I probably wouldn’t attend. “And another thing…”

• I don’t smile enough in pictures.

• I question. A lot.

• I don’t say thank-you exuberantly enough.

This is not an exaggeration. These are the documented reasons why I’m being punished and communication has ceased between me and five other people.

How does one even address these issues?

Oh that’s right.

One does not.

There’s no way to address my columns. I write to make sense of the world. People publish what I write because it hits home. If someone doesn’t like it, someone shouldn’t read it.

I do question. All the time. I even question God. Who thinks they’re above that dude?

I said thank you. And smiled. That’s a tall order when parenting and work has me so exhausted I get teary-eyed at a Salt-n-Pepa reunion commercial.

I have been very lucky. Every person who has been special to me is still in my life. Except one. A childhood friend and I had a falling out several years ago. That is still painful to think about. But most people have more than one “divorce” from their lives and I’ve only had the one.

So these five aren’t out of my life, not yet anyway, and I suppose some strife has to happen between people every now and then. I’m an acquired taste and these gag reflexes are bound to occur.

I’m sort of an expert now in how to get through it. So here you go. This is how to accept a communication freeze-out – without medication:

1) Stop checking your phone. Seriously. Limit it to twice a day, at the most. Haters usually finally say to themselves, “Wow, she might not like talking to kids, but when my wife almost died, she hauled her cookies up here to help. For a week. So maybe she’s not so bad.” And you don’t need to respond right away. Think about it for a while. Do you even want them back in your life full time? Those memes they used to send weren’t even FUNNY.

2) Accept that you will have two competing viewpoints:

a) “I am totally Zen and okay with no communication. They are allowed to process this annoyance in a way that suits them and I will be here when they are done. This allows me to focus on other people anyway, people who dig me and aren’t annoyed right this second but will be in two to three months. Thank God it’s all cyclical. Ohmmmmmmm….”

and

b) “SCREW THEM. If they don’t appreciate me now, they never will. I mean, really. I get them BIRTHDAY presents. What have they ever given me? Besides a WART.”

Try to just breathe your way through these two moods without sending a Kiss Off Memo. You’ll thank me later.

3) Watch The Big Lebowski. On my worst days I’m Katie from “The Way We Were” and on my best days I’m The Dude. Every once in a while, I need a reminder to be my better self, my “You don’t have to love me, I love me” self. And The Big Lebowski does the trick.

In the end, we live our lives being kind, and truthful. Neither is mutually exclusive. But if people can’t get with that, let them go. If it’s meant to be, they’ll recognize your charms and put up with your challenges.

That’s what loved ones do, after all.

Even if you write it all down.

Catherine Durkin Robinson is a political advocate and organizer, living in Tampa. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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