Personalizing Gossip; It Starts And Ends With Me

“Crying,” by Galway Kinnell

Crying only a little bit
is no use. You must cry
until your pillow is soaked!
Then you can get up and laugh.
Then you can jump in the shower
and splash-splash-splash!
Then you can throw open your window
and, “Ha ha! ha ha!”
And if people say, “Hey
what’s going on up there?”
“Ha ha!” sing back, “Happiness
was hiding in the last tear!
I wept it! Ha ha!”

I remembered this poem after visiting my friend Paul’s church when Paul told me that at least three of the people there asked him, in one way or another, if I had a disability. Poor Paul.

I’m pretty sure Paul was embarrassed but aside from that and my own begrudging unfortunate shame response, I have to say it made me laugh a lot. (I work with many labeled “disabled” and respect them. This community comment doesn’t come with the knowing of who is behind a simple word like “disabled.”)


I smiled at Paul’s daughter and she smiled back. What fun laughing with her. Apparently it was just that. My laugh.

Loud and disinhibited. (Laughing more.)

In high school a particular peer thought the same. In movie theaters when something hits that note, I have seen the looks. I have had sufficient opportunities to decide what to do with my laugh.

When weighing the risks and benefits of a “loud and disinhibited laugh,” the laugh has won out for Me. I get so much from it. Such pleasure of claiming that moment, that smile, that air passing through me and the intimacy.

Come join me! – “Ha ha!” sing back

One of the funniest kids I've met while travel...

Image via Wikipedia

It doesn’t mean happiness. For me, it is part of presence. Happy or not happy, and that brings me pleasure.

My sweet friend Paul is a sensitive guy in ways that I am not wired to be. He is so beautiful. I know how he cares about the people around him. I know he respects them and considers their thoughts. It is not so much that he would ever be ashamed of me, abled or disabled. Rather he cares and said these things because in his consideration, perhaps if I was more aware then I would make a different choice about the risks and benefits of my laugh. He doesn’t know that I am informed. I have decided with knowledge.

There is no way he would know this about me. No one could. It was, as always, a statement those church folk made that was mostly about them and not me. That is universal. We all say things that are more about Me than anyone or anything else. It’s friendly to remember this, to Me and them.

“Happiness was hiding in the last tear! I wept it! Ha ha!”

Self-Care Tip: To not personalize what isn’t personal, start and end with Me.

Question: What helps you remember that what people say is about them more than about you? Even when those people think they are talking about you? How do you

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26 thoughts on “Personalizing Gossip; It Starts And Ends With Me

  1. I wish I could have this kind of self confindence!! I think that is what it is, the ability to accept those things in yourself that others might not like. It is a hard one for me. Made even harder when the person being gossiped against is one of my own children. I keep trying to teach them that they are OK. That they make a difference. That they are loved. It is so hard when their self-esteems get stepped on and abused. It is so much harder than I ever thought. I try and remember Mother Therese’s advice, “When you judge them, you have no time to love them.” Those words help me in the pain. I have often thought that life is so hard sometimes. It seems to me that we could each make it better for another if we would only practice a little more kindness and a little less gossip and judging. Good for you with the laugh! We all need more laugther in our lives.

    • I hope the same for mine.
      Self-efficacy is a reasonable way to teach our kids to b their own friend.
      Your fears r many of our fears. I believe u r discovering w us that as u begin and end w Me, we r more equipped for this. Let us know what u think. Keep on.

  2. “Happiness was hiding in the last tear.” Wow. Stunning.

    You disinhibited laugh doesn’t mean happiness, it means being present—love that.

    My daughter can get embarrassed by my big, “disinhibited” laugh, but she has it, too! And many people say they love my laugh, it makes them smile and laugh themselves, and, as one person said, “I always know where you are.”


  3. It’s hard to not take things personally, but you have to think that even if the person might say something that might hurt, that’s just their own opinion. It doesn’t mean we have something wrong with us just because someone else says so. I often get upset all day when someone has an attitude with me, and I feel embaressed, even though I wasn’t the one with the attitude. I have to remember that I shouldn’t feel bad just because someone was in an odd mood. Plus, there’s no benefit in feeling bad anyway. I may as well forget it and think happy thoughts. Someone was grumpy yesterday, and I felt bad, but then I managed to get it out of my mind before it ruined the rest of the day.

  4. Pattyann is right. It’s a self-confidence thing and it is difficult. It’s more difficult when you are aware, to one extent or another, of why people are gossiping about you or judging you. When I first had my mental breakdown, I was directing a children’s choir at my church. Although I was a complete mess at home – or pretty much anywhere – I was able to keep myself together while working with the children. However, it was exhausting and I finally decided (with my daughter, who was accompanying the choir on the piano) to write a note to the parents, explaining my illness and telling them that my daughter would be the interum director even though I would do my best to get to all of the rehearsals and the services at which the children sang. I was being honest and we, my daughter and I, were doing what we thought was best for everyone. Some parents were kind enough to express concern for me, some said nothing. However, several of them panicked and took their children out of the choir, explaining to the pastor that they were afraid that I might hurt their children. It was a horrible thing to go through. I was devatated and I hurt for my daughter and the children, but mostly my self-esteem – what was left of it, by then – was totally destroyed. I became so self-conscious that I couldn’t even attend church for a while. When I did return, and returned to the choir, I questioned everything I did or said. I even questioned how I looked. And, even though those children have graduated from college now or gone to war and, blessedly, returned home safely, I still find myself, when I am near to, or talking with, them or their parents, being almost obsessively aware of my every action or word. It’s still very difficult to be at church and not be confident in who I have become since my breakdown. Gossip – or judgement – is so painful, and tears help but I wonder whether they ever totally heal.

  5. One of the benefits of the Internet, hopefully, is to put a lid on attitudes that anyone different is weird.

    I am not Baha’i, but a close friend who is once explained that the Baha’i consider gossip as the major sin against another person. It is one of the swiftest and most effective destroyer of unity and love. If we could all see it for what it is, gossip would not have the power do wrack such damage.

    One of my spiritual teachers taught me that it matters not what others think of me. What matters is what I think of others.

    That keeps me busy!

  6. Wanna test dealing with the circumstances you describe? Run for office in a small community. If I did just one tenth of the dastardly acts of which I was accused and was well advertised, I would have to be 700 years old. The funniest of all was the assertion that I hang out with drug addicts and alcoholics. Of course I do. I go to meetings.

      • Oh that was in the 80’s and my time for such endeavors is long gone. I did hold the first town meeting in the history of the City of North Miami and all of my proposals from the 2 times I ran were initiated by subsequent administrations. And I learned how influential wealthy people can pay off The Miami Herald to smear you in the Sunday paper just before the Tuesday election.But I was no spectator and I was in the arena. I knew what was coming and chose to play the game. Got quite polished before audiences too. Nothing much scares me any more(except water over 4 ft and ladders over 6 ft). On the other hand being a sponsor for alcoholics and addicts and being a good parent and grandpa are admirable achievements. I’ve helped more people than Napoleon or Caesar because their greatness was based on meaningless self aggrandizement.

        • ah. probably about the time I was sitting in the back seat of my brother’s Fiat listening to Phil Collins. Sitting in the back of my brother’s Fiat might b scary to you, even now. Even dry. no ladders involved.
          i’m thinking u r the smart one. hanging out w alcoholics and addicts and kids and more kids is a sweet deal.

  7. I heard a little saying, “Those that matter don’t care, and those that care don’t matter.” This pretty much sums up how I deal with the crap that people say about me. I used to get upset and want to know who was talking about me and confront the person so I could “set them straight.” That didn’t do anything to change the person’s opinion. In fact, it just added fuel to the fire. Experience has taught me that the best revenge is to go on and live a happy life in spite of what people say about me. Though, at times, I just wish I were having as much fun as I were being accused of 😉

  8. what helps me remember is people telling me like you! when you are in the middle of someone flinging words at you its hard to remember that its about them and not about you. in society we “take” the load flung at us. go ahead and puke on my shoes. the realization that when people were speaking about me was their own personal issues and not mine, it was a mirror reflecting, i had to figure out decades ago on my own. i am so grateful you are hear to share that with everyone and reaffirm for me!

    i have been trying to figure out how to connect back to a part of me kind of lost behind. through energy work we know that she is 4 and really sweet and extremely resilient. do i sit and color, just play and hang out. (hard to do sometimes when you are 50 and have a family and job!) anyways, i also know that i don’t trust her that she actually frightens me to a degree and i am not able to figure out why.

    i read your blog and got up to make tea, thinking about the question you posed and all the people in my life who have made comments, which weren’t true and really quite hurtful (if i allow it, but when you are really young and its your mom that’s hard) anyways, my little girl popped into my head, the vision of her and why i couldn’t bond with her. HA! somewhere someone has told her she is not to be trusted, and i believe that. Sexual abuse was rampant in my life and especially around that age. I was told to not tell, and i did and no one believed me, i think i was told by my mother that i was not to be trusted, and she probably did some of the weird discipline that she loved to do.

    Yeas later when i told again, she told me i was watching too much oprah. hmmmm. . . . .

    time to build some trust bonds. it helps me to understand how careful i am with my words and not to hurt those around me. to be self aware.



    • This story u tell chills and angers me and I’m sure others. I’m so glad u told and tell. What a girl of courage u r were and are. Pursuing trust relationships is not always intuitive n I admire u. Tell us how it goes. Keep on.

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