I was introduced tonight by someone I’ve known for some time as a community consultant and gadfly. I took this as a compliment (which is, I think, how it was intended) and then I looked up the definition.
Gadfly – 1: any of various flies (such as horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock. 2: a person who stimulates or annoys other people especially by persistent criticism, a political gadfly. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Sadly, it fit. Although I’ve been working hard to become uncritical, to not spring into ‘I need to make points’ mode at every opportunity, to opt not to say things that will make other people feel attacked or defensive, it’s a hard habit to break. My best thing has always been in zeroing in on the flaws in other people’s ideas, arguments, policies, programs, you name it. I’m an award-winning balloon popper.
I’ve been told that a gentleness can come with age. Certainly, I saw that with my father whose tough, hardscrabble demeanor melted in his old age to reveal a laid-back guy who was gently curious and quietly accepting of new people and ideas. I loved him for that – that time when he was very old when he would send me emails signed TIE and SIT (Take It Easy and Stay In Touch).
Like my husband says when I question him about one project or another, “I’m working on it.” I’m working on listening more and reacting less, putting into practice the admonition to “assume the best intentions.” Sometimes I feel like a shadow of my former self, other times I feel weirdly empowered like I am keeping all kinds of negativity under control so as to protect the universe.
Still, there are people and institutions that ought to be annoyed and pestered and I’ve no intention of giving them a pass. It’s my life’s work now, my reason for being, to right some wrongs, not all of them, just some. Some would be good.