I went to middle school with a boy named John. I loved that guy for a million different reasons because he was such a level-headed, untroublesome, and good person, not to mention a really good friend. He was popular with the guys for being a “guy’s guy” and with the girls for being terribly cute and easy mannered. John was always ready with an easy smile and kind word to most anyone who passed by.
I remember sitting in our science class one day, John and I surrounded by a group of hormonal teens gossiping about the latest drama to travel our school’s halls. I really did not have much to add to the conversation as I was uninvolved in whatever theatrics had taken place but found myself feeling sucked into the conversation for the sake of participation…the sake of feeling as though I was a part of something. (Knowing what I now know about BPD, I assume the skewed need to participate came from my skewed need to feel validated by joining in on the gossip…establishing myself as a part of the group). I thus added generic comments into the conversation where I thought they would fit, feeling successful that I had participated in the group dynamic in an “important” manner. (LOL) At some point, I happened to take notice of John, surrounded by the same people, hearing the same gossip, and not joining in to even acknowledge the conversation. He was not being rude. He simply did not partake in the furthering of the drama.
Suddenly, I experienced one of those moment where time stood still for a second or two, and I found another reason to love John even more. John did not need to gossip to find validation through being a part of the group. He was comfortable just being John. He did not need to find any sort of empowerment or sense of belonging in talking about the business of others. He had his life to think about, and that was enough for him. I realized in that moment how fresh and new the concept of not gossiping was, as I do not come from a family that refrains from discussing each others’ business with everyone else in the family (and if you are a family member reading this and find yourself feeling defensive towards me, my guess is that the defensiveness you are experiencing is your guilt trying not to show. If you are not a gossip, you should know this post is not about you and therefore, not feel defensive. Just keepin’ it real.). The idea that a person did not have to share every piece of information or their opinions about others had simply never occurred to me. Gossip was how parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. communicated with one another. And in that moment, I realized how very sad that was.
Anyhoo, in the past year, with having to step away from many of the few relationships that survived the difficulties of my MI, I rededicated myself to really focusing on #1-not looking for validation through gossiping and #2-doing my best to make sure that information I share with anyone is just that-information and not gossip. I want my new friendships to be good & healthy and gossip does not play a role in either of those descriptions. Have I failed at times? Heck yeah! Old habits are hard to break, but I have made great progress. Even when venting to my husband, I try to refrain from sharing my thoughts or feelings that could be construed as gossip. Becoming better at not gossiping will help me to continue limiting my need for outside validation until the urge for outside validation no longer is a main goal in my life.
One day, my validation will come mainly from within, and that is something to work for!
Oh…and where did the title “If Kitchen Tables Could Talk…” come from? Well…most of my family would not speak a word to one another again if our kitchen tables could regossip all they know! Relationships would crumble!