Unliking People

Day 106: anywhere along the trail

Nobody likes everyone.  I know my attitude seems incredibly Pollyanna most of the time, and actually all in all I do see and experience only the good stuff.  But yeah, on the trail, as in anywhere in life, I don’t like everyone, not everyone likes me, and sometimes I don’t like myself.

 

Sometimes there are people who are simply unlikable. Or maybe they just do unlikable things in the short period of time I bother to know them. Like this one: this guy catches three of us having a 20 minute power nap at lunch under the shade of a tree. He then proceeds to tell us in sarcasm how that won’t get us our long way; he was mocking us and our plans to have a big mileage day. He will be mocked, because people who hike this trail are competitive enough to take that as a motivating challenge. Despite him, or even because of him, that day  became my and Cheese Steak’s biggest day at 35 miles. Usually though, the trail folk are very supportive, pepping us up and rocking us out.

So generally if I don’t like someone, it’s because our personalities don’t click.  At times, it’s like gears out of alignment and we grate periodically.  One of my early trail family, Space, was always a trick for me because he meant well, he just wandered through life unaware much of the time, putting him physically and socially in the middle of otherwise well-streaming situations.  He would then clumsily change the flow of ordinary tasks and ask ridiculously dumb questions.  For some reason, I was put off by him from the first, and then I struggled to keep a kind composure.  I often failed, finding myself bitchy in his presence, and then I was mad at myself.  The forcefield between us was so strong that more than once he was hiking just ahead of me and when I saw him, I mysteriously lost strength and could not bridge the final gap to pass him.  The only saving grace to this particular relationship is that Space was always spaced out, so I like to convince myself he could not see how challenged I was by his unadorned existence.

Again, if I don’t like someone, it’s typically a personality quirk from the first impression.  At times, it hit hard, like a pebble in the chain, throwing us both off.  When I met Anvil, he was fast and strong, easily catching a large group at a solitary water source in a dry stretch.  He was also bold and bossy.  He began to berate another hiker about his lack of experience and skills.  Though said with a smile, it came off to me as crass and intimidating.  I stared Anvil down, poised to call him on his bully behavior if one more sentence like that came out.  It didn’t, but I saw I now had hackles on around him.  Since hikers tend to end up moving down the trail in unplanned but continuous groupings based on overall average pacing as much as by planned family togetherness, Anvil ended up in my segment of trail.  He ended up friends with some of my friends.  And then he ended up being one of my brothers on trail.

 

And then there are those that don’t like me.  People try to hide it, as I did with Space.  But I am an aware person, and I could feel the effort Beefsteak put out to not avoid me.  He is also a very funny guy with a dry, sometimes caustic, edge.  I was often the punchline, and occasionally it was clear the joke was a vent for his frustrations as much as an opportunity to present laughter.  I was glad for his humor to keep me on my plan to turn the ship of dislike, and in the end it worked here too.

In all cases, I kept the same tactic to create a good relationship with those unlikeable people.  In all cases, it worked.  I simply kept aware of how I felt and acted and what those others around me were doing.  And then I found something I could love, genuinely love, and stuck with it in my mind.  Space was absent-minded but he was trying to ground his life; Anvil was trying to share his experience and strength; Beefsteak overrode his desire to keep harmony in the larger group.  And then I would look for something else to love.  I did this process until I found a thousand small things to love.  By then, I loved each of them truly.  And this is how family is made.

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