Monday, January 19, 2009

Pet Peeves

So, I started thinking about pet peeves, and why we call them pets, and an answer came to me a few days later. Just kidding; it is pretty obvious. But taking the analogy a little further, one wonders – since making pets of our peeves only causes trouble, makes mountains out of mole hills as it were – what would happen if we stopped feeding our pet peeves? If we neglected, even abandoned them? If we drove out on some lonely road in our minds, pitched them out, and left them to fend for themselves?

Would we find ourselves unable to let them go, to drive away? Would they come back and find us? Or could we in some cases be rid of them forever?

I wonder if there are one or two pet peeves I could stop nurturing, give up my right to be snotty and offended about, today. Now, keep this in perspective. I know there is a time to fight for truth and justice and against mediocrity and fuzzy thinking. That's not what I'm talking about. Pet peeves are, I think, the things we get upset about that really don't matter. (And if we let them, they frequently get in the way of the things that DO matter.)

For example, when I told E., who organized much of this last big event I went to, that I was glad it wasn't "youth group-y." "You know," I explained, "like when someone gets up and says they are from Texas and all these people have to say, 'woo hoo, Texas!' There was very little of that." She looked at me like I was nuts, and laughed. OK, I realized in my head, there's nothing wrong with that kind of thing. If I sometimes roll my eyes at it, it doesn't really bother me, either. I was just treating it like a pet peeve. (And for the record, I am NOT immune to the charm of Texas-ness!)

Of course the easiest pet peeves to give up would be the small ones, like that (just join in and say, "Go Texas!") It may only take a small twist of perspective to see a behavior or situation from someone else’s point of view - or take on faith that there is another, legitimate way to look at it, even if I can’t tell what that might be.

But how much more helpful it would be if I gave up the big ones – those peeves that I’ve fed and nursed and toted everywhere, keeping them alive and insisting on their right to go with me wherever I go? When my preferences become prejudices and judgments? (Come back later this week, when I plan to write about misattribution and culture shock.)

Well, giving them up my favorite, fattest pet peeves all together might be a lot to do all at once. But surely I could become more sensitive to when it’s most necessary to leave them in the car or tie them outside the front door rather than bringing them along and giving them attention I could instead be giving to listening to and loving actual people. Rather than nursing my pet ideas and airing my own opinions.

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