Last week one of my closest friends morphed into a different person. It was during an increasingly heated argument over what she terms my “excessive” caution about the pandemic. She insisted I should stop being afraid of going to restaurants, stores and other populated places. I testily defended my caution in staying close to home. Suddenly her usually sympathetic voice hardened into judgmental criticism. It wasn’t just that she became disapproving, but as if she had exited and a censorious stranger took her place. I hung up to avoid escalating into war.
Afterward I kept thinking about what had happened. I know that there are various sides to everyone but I’d never seen this displayed so sharply. Long ago I learned not to label the people in my life as “good” or “bad.” We’re all far more complicated than that . As writers we learn not to make our heroine 100% virtuous (and boring!), or have her villainous counterpart solely evil. As an actor I was taught that in order to play a villain believably you have to find something you can relate to. Is the stepmother plotting to kill her beautiful young stepdaughter totally wicked? (see “Snow White”). Isn’t she also a woman terrified of growing old and losing her beauty? Playing her that complex way might not suit Disney, but it makes her more human. It reminds me of the first line of a story I wrote years ago: ”I was visiting the sister I love and the sister I hate.” I wonder how many readers were surprised to discover they were the same person.
We need to see each other in this multi-sided way, especially when the pandemic is causing rancor and rifts among so many of us: the pro-mask wearers versus the anti-maskers, those honoring the C.D.C. social distancing guidelines versus those who are flaunting them.
We have a right to avoid those who disregard the rules, for our own safety. We also have a right to decide the guidelines of a relationship. But it’s a valuable skill to be able to disagree about behavior without condemning the person, and to remember that friend’s other qualities . This is triply important in families.(Hard to divorce a sibling and futile to turn your back on a parent.)
My friend and I were quick to make up our quarrel, because we know friendship is more important than claiming “I’m right” territory. Anger is a dangerous virus, too. Some day this pandemic will be over. When that time comes, we shouldn’t have to mourn the wreckage of irreplaceable relationships.
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com, Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.