I am one of those people who can’t stand conflict.
I don’t complain in restaurants, hotels, shops or anywhere. As soon as anyone around me argues about anything, I leave the place, feeling uncomfortable and scared. I don’t bicker, I don’t row and I don’t like discussing politics or religion. Conflict upsets me.
I have always been a cryer, my parents told me. I’d heard enough arguments in my life and watched people bearing grudges to decide that it was not worth it. Life’s too short.
So when I recently snapped at a friend of twenty-four years, my head was screaming ‘the friendship is over!’. I imagined her packing up her stuff and driving back to the Czech Republic a few months before she was supposed to. I mentally cancelled our tickets to Africa, where we planned to go and visit the orphanage.
The subject was, unexpectedly, lambs. Having once again taken on a couple of orphaned lambs, I hadn’t known how strongly my friend P felt about NOT giving them back to the farmer – their owner. I watched her for four weeks crying publicly and secretly, trying to figure out how to ‘rescue’ the two lambs from their future. And then the farmer came and collected them.
P cried and all her hopes at saving the lambs crashed. I snapped. Words rolled off of my tongue, they were to the point and they were unkind. All my stress of the previous four weeks gave me all the ammunition that I needed. I told her how her crying made me feel, how I wasn’t happy about having to answer her endless questions. Were they too hungry? Too cold? Too lonely? Where would they go? Who could we give them to that would not eat them? I felt that she was criticising how I cared for them. And now that they have gone, I could finally relax, I said.
I stopped. She cried. Then she said, ‘I just feel sad, that’s all. See you tomorrow,’ and left.
We met the next day as planned and went to a village fair. On the way we (calmly) spoke about her extreme empathy with animals, about my fear of conflict, about trying to compensate for her over sentiment by being tougher than normal. The air cleared within a few sentences and we both acknowledged that it’s not the first or the last of our disagreement.
And I realised that I had just argued with a friend. And we survived.