Judaism has plenty to say about how we relate to one another: Honor your parents, love your neighbor, and don’t hate your brother. Presumably “brother” includes sisters -- both yours and everyone else’s, as in: "Hey bro, I really don’t hate you, man.” Similarly, I’m guessing “neighbor” to include all who surround you. The only exception is the people whose phone voices take you through a labyrinth of menu choices before connecting you with a live person. In that case, I’m fairly certain it’s okay to withhold the love.
Presumably “brothers” include all mankind as in “Hey bro.”
This leaves us in a vulnerable predicament since Judaism does not forbid parents, brothers and neighbors from inflicting insanity upon us. I’m not certain whether this was a glaring omission or a cosmic joke. Especially since most people have at least one Beloved Difficult Person (“BDP”) in their lives. To love them means a trek through the Valley of Mishegoss where crazy-making can surprise at any moment. It’s not that you’re unfamiliar with their shtick. In fact, you’ve listened so many times, you could lip sync an entire soliloquy verbatim. The problem is wandering through that rocky wilderness without the proper protective equipment.
To be fair, BDPs are not sociopaths. They’re often well-meaning, lovely people who happen to confuse us with vomitoriums on whom they can verbally heave the bile of the day. But don’t they feel so much better afterward?
You may ask: What’s a Jew to do?
I, too, have traveled the Meshuggeh Road. Just when I desperately needed to make a U-turn out of that dead-end street, like a miracle, I discovered The Secret. No, not that Secret. This is the missing ingredient to conversing with those who drive you bonkers while simultaneously keeping your sanity intact. I used my own BDP as a beta tester. So far, so good.
It’s so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it first. The basic premise is that when BDPs pull their shtick, you don’t take it seriously. Pretend they’re comedians and you're watching a sitcom. Sometimes you're the audience; other times you're a secondary character. Go ahead and have a good laugh. Just remember that although you're in on the joke, you never, ever laugh out loud. Your BDP thinks it's real life, like a reality show. Only you know it’s a comedy, or perhaps a dramedy. When the show is over, you can go back to your regularly scheduled life. That is, until the next episode.
When BDPs pull their shtick pretend you're watching a sitcom.
The Secret works most effectively when reinforced by Sanity Savers, such as playing online Mahjong during an entire phone conversation. This works in a similar way as the Lamaze Method works for childbirth. No, we’re not talking apples and oranges. It’s all pain, just a different kind, and distraction is distraction whether heavy breathing or clicking tiles. An added bonus is that you’ll get really good at online games, if that matters to you.
Additional Sanity Savers come in packages designed for your particular lifestyle, such as the Executive Multitasker series for those with a penchant for effective time management. A sample gem from this bundle includes treadmilling or other exercise equipment of choice. While you get in shape, the machine drowns out the voice on the other end of the phone. You’ll still hear well enough to insert the obligatory “uh-huh” at appropriate beats, but the impact is lessened as the noise cushions the blow.
If the above doesn’t work, you’ll need to ramp it up a notch. This next one should be used under extreme duress only and with moderation so as not to blow the charade. If you own both a landline and a cell phone, simply call yourself from the other phone once you’ve had enough. You'll hear the blessed beep that is Call Waiting. At the prompt say, “Hold on, Beloved Difficult Person,” and switch over. Be sure to engage yourself in conversation for several seconds, for authenticity. Then switch back and tell your BDP you must take the call. You won’t be lying. Assuredly, you must. When you’ve had about all you can take, talking to oneself is one of the those embarrassing, private activities that we all indulge in from time to time, even if we don’t like to admit it.
You may say, “I’m sick and tired of this show. Why don’t I just not pick up the phone?” That’s one option. Better yet, a sudden move with no forwarding address works wonders in a pinch. You could even fake your own death.
You know why you don’t. Despite everything, you love your BDP with a caring that runs deeper than your BDP’s crazy factor. You don’t want to end the relationship; you want to endure it.
So next time the phone rings and the caller ID flashes, “BDP,” take a deep breath and tell yourself that even though the show’s ratings aren’t so great, it still has its moments that make it worth watching. You’re glad it's still on the air. The truth is, even a good series doesn’t live forever. Once the season ends and the show isn’t picked up again, life will be much emptier. Realizing how much you love this character, you listen. You don’t mind the bad lines, bad acting, and bad scenes. Not so much anymore. You’re glad your character has an ongoing role. Just grateful the show is still on the air.