Livin’ life and makin’ enemies

Saturday December 8, 2012

Made any enemies lately? It’s not something most people want to do or set out to do, enemies happen.

While this is an uncomfortable subject for most of us, there is another side to having made enemies. So what is an enemy? It is often someone you have known for a long time who feels you have changed in a way that they cannot accept. Enemies are created when you change, when you stand up for yourself, or when you accomplish something. Enemies are made when you are different in some way, because to some folks, being different is threatening, "not like the rest of us" and therefore wrong. You can make enemies just by being. My fiancee often says, "All I have to do is wake up in the morning and it pisses someone off." The thing is, if you are living a life that has growth and forward momentum, you are bound to make a few enemies along the way.

I’ve always felt that life is this journey that takes you through phases, and going through an experience or phase changes you. Most of us don’t really like change. Wouldn’t life be better if we didn’t have to change and upset the cosmic apple cart? We humans also have this tendency to categorize others, placing them in a pigeon hole, neatly compartmentalized into what we think and perceive of them. I have to say that no one should be rigidly defined; precisely because we are human, and subject to change without notice. Hence, when we change, we inadvertently upset the order of things, and lots of people just don’t like that. When you have strong beliefs and take a stand on a principle, that will result in an enemy or two. Winston Churchill said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life."

I’ve made family enemies, career enemies, neighborhood enemies, friend enemies, you name it. I did not set out to make enemies or alienate everyone, but I did have to be true to myself and true to the principles that I believe in. When I first became aware of this fact of life, I thought it was a phenomenon, or that I was unique. However, when it comes to making enemies, I am unique, just like everybody else. I don’t like it, I don’t seek it out, but it is unavoidable if you are going to be a true individual. When I first realized that enemies can be created just by being myself, I felt that I wasn’t emotionally equipped to live a life with enemies. Then I remembered my sixth grade teacher Mrs. Picard. She would often say that "it’s difficult to accomplish anything without a certain amount of intestinal fortitude." Profound stuff for 11-year-olds, but it made the correct impression. Being an individual takes guts.

Another thing that we need to know is that having made enemies doesn’t mean that you were right and they were wrong about something. All that it means is that you grew or changed in some way. Anything that you do that is out of the norm is going to have this effect. If you are an artist who has chosen to work in, oh, let’s say a medium like used Q-tips, you’re going to have detractors. When Henry Ford made automobiles accessible to the masses, he upset a lot of harness and wagon makers. Do you think that candle and kerosene lamp manufacturers held any affection for Thomas Edison after he invented the light bulb? I think not. Picasso and Salvador Dali challenged artistic norms, and they were initially vilified for it. When people like Gloria Steinem pushed for social change for the way women were perceived, she took a boatload of grief. All of the aforementioned had legions of enemies at one time or another.

Making enemies is a gauge of effectiveness. The more they detract, the more effective you have been. Having enemies means you are moving forward in life, that you are doing a good job of dealing with change if not outright creating change. It is unfortunate, but enemies are a reality of life. Even if you don’t stand up for something you believe in, you are still going to have enemies. When you don’t stand firm, that is when they have muted you. They win, you lose. I suppose you could say that it all boils down to the fact that life ain’t easy. Well, I’m thinking that a life worth living isn’t easy. There are struggles, obstacles, loss, pain, disappointment, disillusionment and the inevitable enemy. Like the lady said, just the act of getting out of bed in the morning and drawing a breath is going to tick somebody off.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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