As an alternate on the jury, my job was simply to witness the load of unpleasantness. I was there just in case I was needed, but in this case, I wasn’t. All I was supposed to do was observe. Not participate.
Just watch and listen.
And keep my mouth shut.
When it came time to actually talk about what we had witnessed, not only did I NOT get to be a part of the discussion (meaning I did not get to say anything at all... not a single friggen word) but I wasn’t even allowed to hear the other thought processes.
That made it even harder to swallow, let alone understand, the verdict that this group of seemingly normal people came up with~ I could not (and still can’t) understand how on earth they got to the conclusion they did after observing the exact same things as me.
I’ve been on 3 juries in my life, and started out feeling like I was participating in an important process. Jury duty has never been what I would consider fun exactly, but that last experience left me feeling disheartened, disappointed and confused. My mind was both boggled and dismayed at the world and the people in it.
Perhaps worst of all……. the feeling of helplessness was literally sickening.
(I’ve since read psychological articles advocating for helping jurors process the traumas they see in the same way that police officers are counseled after a gnarly event, but that’s a whole nother topic.)
Anyhoo~ the point is I realized then that I really, really don’t like witnessing~ Especially things I can’t do anything about. I pretty much hate it.
At the time, I thought the universe was giving me a some sort of lesson, like about letting go of illusions of control or maybe about the importance of just observing and allowing or some other load of bummerness. I really did try to understand it and learn, but it really felt more like “blah, blah, blah~ here’s a bunch of depressing poop for ya.”
Over a year later, and many more chances to witness things I can’t do anything about, (which in all honesty felt less like opportunities and more like punishment) and I am still sort of wondering what exactly is the point of all this witnessing?
Not to be negative, but I’m just not seeing any positive in watching train wrecks unless you get your butt out of the car and try to help people out, or at least call 911 or lobby for safer crossings or something….anything.
Just not nothing (I’m sure that double negative breaks some grammar rules, but I’m hoping that some sort of mathematical probability will apply ~ like where the double negative cancels the negativity out, making the whole thing at least a neutral and factual statement.)
The thing is, doing nothing doesn’t really seem like nothing. It seems like it’s allowing messed up things to happen without any deterrent. I know it isn’t always useful, helpful or appropriate to speak up or act out when you see something wrong, but sitting there acting like it’s not a problem just reinforces its acceptance and lets it grow.
In recent months I’ve watched people I know and care about be real buttheads to each other. It was difficult and painful. I tried distractions like providing food and entertaining banter, and I tried communicating my concerns about what I felt I was observing, even if I’m pretty sure it wasn’t heard or understood. Mostly, I felt like I was not able to do anything to stop it, and for my own health, I had to just go on and wish them blessings on their journey.
I realize it’s always easier to figure out other people’s problems and I generally try to not be judgemental, although to be honest, I sometimes fail. As if to remind me that I have a plank in my own eye, a whole lotta instances of buttheadedness happened within my own home shortly after I thought I knew how to fix the splinter in my friends’ family..
More recently, I’ve watched people I care about on painfully obvious self destructive paths and while I want to help and fix things and I have 5 billion potential ideas of how to make things better, it seems that for the most part, once again, all I can do is witness.
It’s bad enough with strangers in a courtroom, but with people you know in real life, the ones who are actually a part of your circle and you love….well, that’s just friggen lame.
And it sucks.
And it sucks further when I try to communicate with all of the best of intentions, but it doesn’t help. At all.
It’s always amazed me to think that some people are actually able to listen to other people’s problems for a living. Like all day long. They must have some sort of ‘anti get involved shield’ that I lack. I can’t even watch the news or scary shows without feeling depressed, panicked and hopeless.
I find psychology fascinating, but I could never be a therapist. Besides the fact that I lack the appropriate degree and there’s probably laws against that, I also have a very low tolerance for BS and time wasting. If things can be fixed, I want to see it happen, not just listen and wait while people process and continue in suffering for a billion years.
There comes a time to quit whining and get busy fixing whatever you’re complaining.
Plus I have no poker face, so if I think something is appalling, or not very smart or just a really bad idea, even if I somehow manage to keep my boca shut, my face will say it for me.
Sometimes though, things need to be said. Not by strangers on the internet who want to crucify and spew venom about people they don’t even know, but by people who care.
It’s a lot easier to call out someone you don’t know anonymously than to speak up to someone who are going to see and interact with again.
Years ago, a good friend and I were talking about some young pop star whose life was spiraling into a chaotic mess in the way that they often do. In addition to pondering why and how, we wondered where this person’s friends were ~ you know, like REAL FRIENDS, and what if anything they were saying to her about it.
Since I’m not in the world of this pop star, I don’t really know if anyone was saying anything, but it seems in the world I see first hand, people often don’t speak up about things close to home. Sure we talk smack about celebrities and people in the media, but when it comes to the people close to us, we keep quiet as they sink.
My friend and I decided back then that real friends are willing to do the hard work of calling each other out. We made a pact that even if one of us became rich and famous, the other would still call BS when we saw it. We would love each other anyway, but we wouldn’t silently witness a trainwreck.
So far, we haven’t needed it, but it’s good to know someone has your back.
I just got the notice that I’m call for jury duty again soon, and it filled me with more than the usual dread….not just at the potentially long and boring days of waiting around in an unpleasant environment, not just at the lost work hours and pay, but at the thought of witnessing the ugly side of humanity.
Maybe my cynical face will get me out of it. I hope so because I don’t think my heart is up for that.
How about you~ Can you just witness? How do you watch, listen and wait in life without saying or doing anything?
If you enjoyed my rambling, please let me know in the comments below, and share it with a friend!