Friday, December 07, 2007

Doesn't Play Well With Others....

Okay. I admit it. I don't play well with others.

That isn't to say I am obnoxious or mean. It doesn't imply that I am not cooperative. I am probably overly cooperative.

But I simply can not bring myself to go along with something, just because someone somewhere wants me to do so.

I have to believe it. I have to feel it. It has to mean something to me.

And yet this comes in conflict to a degree with what a good and trusted friend called "doing what's right for the community."

I am willing to follow rules. In fact, I like rules. I like rules because they enhance harmony. If we all know what is expected of us, it's much easier to get along. Rules free us from too much frivolous choice-making that interferes with getting to the heart of any matter, getting to the important stuff.

Where I part company apparently is with group activities. They've never appealed to me because there's something about groupthink and group dynamics that just. leave. me. cold.

Where is this incomprehensible tirade coming from?

It comes from a discussion I have been having via email with Ajahn S about holidays.

I hate to think I might be a cultural dissident, even in the culture I chose, the one I value so highly that I turned my life inside out to be a part of it, but it seems that some inherent personality traits are more powerful than my commitment to fitting in. I've been extraordinarily lucky in fitting in to that culture. It seems to have happened by some power beyond me. That is how natural it seems. I love that way of life. At the same time, I can't bring myself to engage in ritual that doesn't feed my soul. That is especially true when I can't see how it is feeding anyone's soul.

Maybe I am too cynical. Maybe I'm too analytical. Maybe I'm just a royal pain in the ass.

The truth is that holidays simply don't speak to me on a personal level. Not here. Not there.

S. believes that sometimes we have to do what's best for the community, even if we don't really want to do it. I believe that. There are many cases where the community comes before the individual. In that, I am totally committed to not doing anything that harms community.

Yet when it comes to group celebration, I find it exceedingly easy to say no, to walk away and to ignore it. Completely. Not in a hostile "this is stupid" kind of way but simply in a "this doesn't interest me" way. I will admit honestly that I lose no sleep over this.

I don't see this as harmful to community in any way. No one is going to go to bed hungry or sleep on the street because Chani doesn't care about group celebrations. No one is going to be hurt because I don't care.

S. is implying or perhaps just suggesting (kindly, of course) that it is self-indulgent on my part to hold this view.

I would be curious to hear what others think. Honesty or self-indulgence? (I won't be offended by either answer.)



The Atavist said...

I think I'm with you, mostly. I will take part in something if it isn't too traumatic for me and if it will please someone close to me, but if there isn't a really close connection and I'm not interested, I won't participate.

Anonymous said...

I think it's deep-rooted cynicism.

liv said...

I tend to agree with De. I also question what exactly would be so terrible in reaping some joy from others' joy in celebrating. It seems to me that most holidays are hallmarked by the group celebration thing. A time to get together and appreciate one another sometimes more than even the celebration itself. If I were you, I'd reach out and grab some of that joy instead of analyzing your motives.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think it depends on the circumstances. If you refused to attend a birthday party for someone who is close to you and that person felt hurt over it, that would be (for me) a selfish act.

If we are talking about national holidays, though, and the presence of one individual has little effect on the proceedings, then it is not selfish.

Standing in the city square with strangers to celebrate the dictator's birthday leaves me cold every time, but small, intimate gatherings to celebrate family are like little mile stones which keep the bonds between people secure through all the storms of their individual lives. I feel that we should honor such commitments as long as it feels right to us.

I object to the crass commercialization of Christmas in America, but not to the warmth of gathering family to enjoy each other's company.

Ultimately, we remain ourselves no matter what culture we embrace. I see no reason to expect you to become someone you are not in Thailand when going there is all about being able to live honestly with your own soul among people you instinctively cherish. It would be unrealistic to become a joiner when that is not in your nature (or mine, by the way.)

Julie Pippert said...

I guess it depends upon what you are being asked to do that you don't want to do...and how much a part of a personal or community effect it will have.

Do you have negative feelings or energy about it that might dampen spirits?

I guess from my POV I distinguish between participating and being happy for. I may not participate in everything but if it brings someone joy, I am happy for them and don't delve too deeply into WHY or HOW it makes them happy.

Using My Words

niobe said...

Hmmm...this is the kind of question that I find so hard to answer in the abstract. What kind of group celebrations are you talking about avoiding? What's your relationship -- other than the celebration -- to the group? How strongly do you feel about not wanting to participate in this particular celebration?

Flutter via CS said...

Posting for Flutter. Blogger is apparently mangling comments.

Ok, since blogspot is NOT cooperating with me like AT ALL, I just wanted to tell you that it isn't self indulgent to not like the holidays. We all have preferences and I don't really like brussel sprouts, is it self indulgent of me not to eat them?

thailandchani said...

Atavist, it's good to see you here again. The bar just got raised. :)

Seriously though.. this is really close to how I feel about it. Even when it comes to personal things, I would rather acknowledge those my own way.. meaning that I would rather send birthday cards than Christmas cards.


De, that is probably largely true with me. Long explanation required to qualify that. :)


Liv, you make a very good point and of course I happy for those who find joy in it. (Not just referring to Christmas here, by the way, but any general celebration.) My participation or lack of doesn't impact anyone else's enjoyment.


Susan, the birthday is a good example. I know I need to be better about that kind of thing than I am. That's definitely a shortcoming of mine. At the same time, I would hope that someone would be content to be taken to lunch and get a card or gift as appropriate. Parties really are traumatic for me. I can't imagine anyone being hurt by that.

I think you're right about remaining the same fundamental personality type, whether it's here or Thailand.

Thai people are really into their celebrations. Someone like me seems a bit more obviously foreign in that way.


Julie, I don't think I have any negative feelings.. but I do have indifferent ones. That might possibly impact how people would feel. Intentionally though, no, I would never dampen spirits.

It's just not my "thing", if you know what I mean. I was never socialized that way.


Niobe, good questions. 1) They are national group celebrations. 2) My connection to the group is that I have adopted their culture and become a part of their way of life. 3) I feel strongly enough that I ignored it, which is what started the conversation btwn S. and I on email. Even though I'm not there, he felt I should have acknowledged it somehow. I can't say my feelings are strong. To be honest, I was wholly indifferent.


Flutter, very good point. This is closest to my own feelings about it.


Anonymous said...

I think it's one of those "you're only hurting yourself" kind of things. Mostly the community won't care whether you part with them or not, but you could be missing out on a good time.

I think you have to be careful about why you are rejecting communal celebrations. If it's truly "not your thing," that's fine; but if you're rejecting them before they can reject you, then it's something to work on.

meno said...

You know, i think many people like to participate in group activities because it makes them feel good about themselves, that they belong. I think you simply don't need to feel that way. I feel similarily to you, it just doesn't interest me, mostly.

thailandchani said...

Thomas, you raise a good point and it very well may have started that way. There comes a point where we get tired of wanting something, waiting for it, so we just stop wanting it.

So... truthfully.. I do think that's the origin of it but it's no longer my motivation. Now I am truly indifferent.


Meno, yes.. I do think it gives people a sense of tribal identity. Oddly, I feel fairly secure with my tribal identity now.. and I don't need to continually reinforce it.

The holiday over there is one that is very, very popular.. and people really do get into it. I just don't care about it.


g / crinkled said...

I think it's plain honesty. And Flutter's analogy resonates with me, too.

(Commenting obviously from outside 'a community'... I like reading your posts from time to time. :D)

SUEB0B said...

This may be a cultural difference. I think that we in the US are much more individualistic than in many places and that opting out of celebrations can be seen as very, very rude in some other cultures - as rude as insulting someone with words might be here.

Snoskred said...

Ok, shoot me for being honest, because I'm going to be. And its just my thoughts, so..

I think there are so many things coloring your view of this that you can't see it clearly.

One of those might be your hate of consumerism. Christmas is about giving presents. That means shopping and retail etc, which you've made fairly clear that you don't like. ;) I think I've got that much right. ;)

Another of them would be that the holidays are supposed to be about family. You've spoken here about being estranged from your remaining family but even so I would imagine this would be a time of year that they would come to mind.

You may not see how it feeds others souls, but for a lot of people including me, the holidays is the time of year that they spend with their families. Sure, people whinge about it, some families have big arguments on Christmas day, but for many this is a day when they stop everything and spend time with family, and for some people that does feed the soul. It always has done for me because within my family there are some fantastic people who I rarely get to spend much time with other than the holidays.

I don't think it is about not playing well with others. I think it is a combination of things deeper on the inside, perhaps issues unresolved from your own past that you're yet to deal with.

As far as the question - Honesty or self-indulgence? - I think maybe both. It's ok to be honest and say I'm just not into this. I'm not so sure about the other thing.

My own Mother is quite self-indulgent about Christmas. She used to love it while her own Mother was alive, and ever since she passed away my Mother has been a complete beeyotch about it all. She doesn't even put up a tree, not even when the family which includes my nephews and nieces who are kids and who still believe in Santa are celebrating the day at her house.

I consider it pretty selfish of her to do that. It doesn't take much to put up a few decorations. But because she has no Christmas spirit, she makes it difficult for others around her to have any. I do find it very irritating. I understand her loss - we all lost someone we loved. But I do not think that her Mother (my Grandma) would want her to act that way. I certainly think she would want her to make Christmas special for the kids, the way my Grandma always did for us.

It is tempting to wait until she goes out and then Christmasify her house, even right down to a real pine tree. I sometimes think if maybe I did that, she would get back into it.

I'm putting up a tree and lights this year. Not for anyone else, for me. I want to at least have some Christmas spirit of my own. For me it's not about presents, it's not about Santa, it's not about Jesus or church, it is simply about taking some time to appreciate what I have and also to enjoy the beauty of decorations.


painted maypole said...

you know, if it doesn't interest you,then I think stepping away from it as much as you can is just fine. there are things about these holidays that frustrate me... like we do we focus so much this time of year on helping others, but gosh... in May we could care less if these same kids we're collecting toys for now don't have anything to eat?

Janet said...

I think it's compltely acceptable not to participate if it isn't your thing. You're not spoiling any one else's good time, you just aren't interested in partaking.

Chacun à son goût.

thailandchani said...

Crinkled, glad you came by. :) I appreciate your input.


Sueb0b, I think you nailed it. I'm carrying my habits from here to there. Just the same, I can't seem to manufacture caring. You know, it's just not that important to me.


Snos, no... I think I'll pass on shooting you. (Prison is so bleak! LOL) In this case, I am not talking about Christmas but your point is still taken ~ and your analysis is right on as far as my own feelings about Christmas. I do think sometimes we have to do it for others and if I was surrounded by people who depended on that, I would make myself do it.

In the case of Christmas, not the shopping.. but the music, decorations and so on.

In this case though, I am 8K miles away and didn't find it necessary to acknowledge a Thai holiday.


May, I agree completely. The same all year around would be good. Hunger doesn't stop just because the Christmas tree gets taken down.


Janet.. that's it in a nutshell. I'm not one for large gatherings anyway.



jen said...

can it be both?

i missed you. your post card was sent, so you'll have to let me know once it arrives.

Melissa said...

How do you reconcile your feelings with the cultural norms in Thailand? They are all about group celebrations/events there. How will you cope with that?

Melissa said...

How do you reconcile your feelings with the cultural norms in Thailand? They are all about group celebrations/events there. How will you cope with that?

thailandchani said...

Melissa.. good question :) They are all about group celebrations. I recall some of the celebrations that would take place when someone was getting married or going off to school or any number of things. The whole neighborhood was involved and I actually enjoyed those. I did fine with them. The national stuff, not so much. I attended each time but it was always the first time. After that, I didn't have much interest. The whole water-throwing SongKran thing turned me off completely but I loved the Loy Kratong celebration.

Still. I've experienced them. Now they don't have much hold on me. I get the concepts behind them and prefer to acknowledge those concepts in a quieter, more peaceful, way.

It's hard to say. Perhaps I'll grow into it when I'm there.. or I might find another way to avoid, just as I've done here.

Frankly, I was surprised when it came up as an issue with S. Perhaps he thought he'd taught me differently.. and was disappointed when I failed to acknowledge the holiday last week. He probably thinks I should know better.

And maybe that's true. I just don't know at that point. One way or another though, I will reconcile it. My life there means far too much to have something this minor become an issue.


Snoskred said...

Oh, well that is something different. How were you supposed to be a part of a group celebration so far away? That's what I don't get..

I know you aren't a Christmas person, you've mentioned it here before.


Ian Lidster said...

I suspect we are very similar. I could relate to virtually every word.

Maddy said...

I think we all have to find our own way, glad that you have found yours.
Best wishes

This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

Kikipotamus said...

Know what? One week ago I would have seen only your view, not the other one. But now I think it depends on the circumstances and I have a first-hand account that is teaching me what value there is in yielding. I only now understand that other view because of the situation I'm in this year...someone who doesn't do Christmas in a household of kind, loving people who get so much joy from their rituals. Each way of abstaining from these rituals that I considered felt selfish, stubborn and negative. As I softened, I found I was losing nothing. Walking out of the house would have hurt their feelings and I decided my boycott of xmas was not as important as their feelings.

QT said...

I honestly think it is both, Chani. I don't think one is more right or more wrong.

Sienna said...

I respect your decision, for me, personally I would want for you to be comfortable with your decision and no explanation necessary.

I am, however Australian born/bred..and I do love my solitude. I mean no disrespect to others customs/culture/traditions...that's just how I feel.


Emily said...

This is a difficult one. I think there is a coerciveness to a lot of celebrations. That bothers me and tends to turn me off.

However, if your decision not to participate were to deny another the chance to celebrate in a meaningful way (maybe refusing to allow the celebration in your space when there is no other space for it), then it could be construed as selfish.

Emily said...

This is a difficult one. I think there is a coerciveness to a lot of celebrations. That bothers me and tends to turn me off.

However, if your decision not to participate were to deny another the chance to celebrate in a meaningful way (maybe refusing to allow the celebration in your space when there is no other space for it), then it could be construed as selfish.

Anvilcloud said...

It's possibly a personality thing with you more than anything (my guess). Some of us aren't programmed to do well in group situations. Sometimes you have to show the flag anyway.

TIV: the individual voice said...

This has been a big issue for me in my life. My entire extended family find it fulfilling and energizing to celebrate every single Jewish holiday to the max. I, on the other hand, just feel obligated and drained by said celebrations and avoid them. I think that in most cultures, people who don't get anything out of it like me or you have just been shamed into participating. I'm thrilled I live far from my family and can worm out of it most of the time. It's a totally different experience for those who crave the communality of it and those who don't and it's not fair of those who "groove" on it to impose it on those of us who don't, or are even miserable doing it. So I say, good for you for being true to yourself.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

In some cultures, celebration was a requirement - a way to share joy, just as it was expected that you would share sorrow with the community. But as in so many things, those codes were written so long ago and now we don't work for 6 months with no real break until a feast day, so it doesn't have the same meaning, I should think.

Hel said...

I often find myself hovering on the edges of group activities feeling awkward.

But I have made peace with it. Someone has to sit under the tree and keep those who feel like wandering/ wondering away from the group company.

Christine said...

as long as you are not actively trying to hurt anyone (i can't imagine you ever doing so) than it is totally up to you.

Melissa said...

Thanks for your response Chani! Why specifically do you think Adjan S was disappointed about your reluctance to celebrate a holiday? Was it to do with spiritual growth or some other factor?

Personally I'm a very anti-group sort of person. But I've found that when "group" is important it is better for me to let go and just participate, and not let myself stress, and even find the joy in it. This is my own experience of course!

crazymumma said...


I love going against the grain. It seems to be part of my nature. But I always seem to get in trouble. Bad Dog.

I think you need to be you, and stop apologizing for not always fitting, not joining.

Mary said...


Doing a group activity just because everyone else is doing doesn't make it fun. Not at all. So, go against the grain. There's no reason to grin and bear anything.

I like the holidays - I love the sparkle and glitter and the magic of it all but over the weekend, I got fed up. For the past two years I enjoyed writing one of those Christmas Letters to stuff into my cards for those I haven't seen since moving. It was fun. I had news. This year I told my husband, " Christmas letter this year There's no news. I really don't even want to send cards. It's a waste of my time and money." Well, he acted as if I was committing the worst crime on earth because HE wanted our sleepy news in a letter. He didn't get the point. I AM CHOOSING NOT TO WRITE A LETTER BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO. I'm honest enough.

Mary said...

By the way, I wrote the damned letter anyway. Boring with a capital B.

thailandchani said...

Melissa, I think he was upset because he understands that it takes a degree of discipline to be a part of a community. He gets on me about those things because in some ways, I'm the adult equivalent of a feral child. That's not to mention a rather strong phobia about group dynamics. I fell down on the discipline. His points are well-taken, but I'm not certain I can become an entirely different person, just because I adopted a new cultural framework. I'm still me.. just in a different setting. He wants to do the best for me, for certain, but we have to manage to do this while allowing me to remain who I am.

Did you see Hel's comment? It's a good one. There are things all of us can do and still be ourselves. Sitting under the tree to keep other strays company really does make a lot of sense.

Galt-In-Da-Box said...

Amen, sister...You're preachin' to the choir!
What I can't stand about Holiday Time is the PHONINESS.
You're expected to feeeeeel all this peace and good will that must be anti-culture-law the rest of the year, while globalist corporate moguls get rich off the gift-selling tradition.
Some statistics indicate more murders and suicides this time of year as well; just another "Roman Holiday"...I really don't celebrate.
About the only "Christmas spirit" I ever get is from a bottle of spiked eggnog.

thailandchani said...

GIDB, I hear you. Really. I do! Celebrations should come from a place of joy, not coercion. And I agree with the whole selling thing. It's clearly promoted for that reason and peple get sucked in.

Roman holiday. Hm. I like it. I like the comparison.

The Christmas spirit I feel is mostly from truly Christian friends who are really celebrating the cornerstone of their religious belief. There are some beautiful religious rituals.

The rest of it is just tripe.

And honestly, I feel the same way about a lot of Thai holidays.

Thai people have a habit of celebrating milestones in their neighborhoods... marriages, birthdays, graduations and such. I love that!

Stuff that's pushed by the government or for some obvious agenda, I don't like there either.