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I’m A “Free Radical” March 29, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Mindfulness, People.

Wikipedia ~ Batesian Mimicry (in Public Domain)

Last night, I met someone.

For the first time.

After a few preliminary inquiries, he proceeded to tell me that I needed to “get involved in the community.”

“What do you mean?”

“Get out and volunteer.  Work with Habitat for Humanity to build houses.”

“Not a chance.”

With an all-too-obvious scathing sneer, in a tone dripping with scorn and condescension, he put me under his microscope, “Oh, you don’t volunteer?  You have to be paid?”

“Nope.  That’s got nothing to do with it.  An entire page on my resume is devoted to past volunteer efforts.  Here’s the thing:  I don’t want to build houses.  Not my forte or strength.  Not my cause.  Not how I want to spend my “giving back” time.”


This is not the first such exchange I’ve had since moving here.

Remember “I can’t eat THAT!” (if not, click here) . . . she also wanted to tell me exactly how I should spend my time.

Other virtual strangers have told me I have to join a church . . . get involved in the local theatre . . . assist with food drives . . . {{insert your pet cause here}}.

I finally figured out why these people are so insistent and bossy in their efforts to “pin me down.”

Free radicals roam the body, creating havoc.  Anti-oxidants latch on to free radicals to neutralize them and escort them safely out of the body.

Wikipedia ~ Batesian Mimicry (in Public Domain)

These folks obviously feel that I’m a free radical . . . apt to wreak havoc in the local community unless they, acting as anti-oxidants, neutralize me by fitting me into a box of their choosing.

Rather like pinning a butterfly to a board to create order from chaos.

I will admit to being free.  But I’m not a radical . . . or a rabble rowser.


Aah . . . that’s better!

Quote to ponder:  Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out.


1. Lisa Wields Words - March 29, 2012

I get those suggestions all the time. And, while I am not adverse to volunteering for something that calls to me, I don’t want to do it just to fit a certain mold. Volunteering for show is not as valid (in my opinion) as doing something you truly believe in.

So I too will roam free and not be pinned down.

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

People are so amusing to me.

They would do a better job of recruiting folks to their causes by sharing what they enjoy rather than trying to manipulate us through guilt and the threat of ostracism. 🙄

2. Piglet in Portugal - March 29, 2012

Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out.

Me me that’s me. 🙂

Everyone has been trying o get me to support the local dog charity.
Expats are dog crazy. They take in all sorts of waifs and strays…I ask them would you take in a deliquent teenager? No of course not so why are you taking dogs off the streets into your home? There was not a day went by when I did not receive a begging email to rehome a dog! ..in your dreams, sunbeam. Animals are great but I’m a people person. The dog charity is “fashionable” here.

Now if you were talking pigs 🙂 I woud be first in the Q to volounteer.

Joking aside I did consider becoming invovled with a Portuguese charity collecting and distributing food to the homeless.

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

Good for you, PiP!

We cannot be ALL things to ALL people, places, animals, and things. We must look within and decide what we WANT to share.

And share that. 😀

3. suzicate - March 29, 2012

I think you handled this person very well, Nancy. Habitat for Humanity might be a great organization, but it is not one I’ve ever volunteered with. Giving back to our community is a wonderful and rewarding service, but it is a personal choice to whether or not and preference of how. I gave my time in service and money to many organizations for many years. Now, I give financially, but seldom give my time anymore. Why? There are other things I want to do, and I do things personally for people in need of my services that doesn’t need to be advertised or explained to anyone else. I find much more enjoyment helping elderly or nature services…and I don’t appreciate anyone else telling me I should “exhaust” my efforts elsewhere. Ok, I’m stepping down from my high horse now!

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

Exactly so, Suzi!

BFF worked for Habitat for years before we moved to FL. It’s a great organization. But building houses doesn’t appeal to me . . . since I don’t know my way around a toolbox or belt. 😉

I want to give generously from MY heart . . . not be guilted into doing something that appeals to another.

4. cuhome - March 29, 2012

Evangelical volunteers. Yikes! I hear you, Nancy, and I think your handling of this situation was good, as you didn’t go on the defensive, you just stated where you were coming from and put a period at the end. Whether it’s religion or volunteerism or politics, there always seem to be people who know best how YOU should spend YOUR time, and they are not shy about telling you. We all need to respect each other more than that. Good for you for just being who you are. 🙂

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

Thanks, cuhome! I seldom get defensive these days because the choices I make on a day-to-day basis are the product of mindful deliberation and consideration. People can no longer make me feel “guilty” for not doing what THEY want me to do.

Since their opinion of me is IRRELEVANT to how I choose to spend MY life and MY time, their transparent attempts to manipulate me (through fear of ostracism and condemnation) make me smile. 😎

5. granny1947 - March 29, 2012

Oh come on NR…be a radical…it will make such interesting blogging. 🙂

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

I admit to being controversial (and, at times, difficult), but that’s as far as I’ll go . . .

For now. 😉

6. Carl D'Agostino - March 29, 2012

Seems like they are trying to make you into a Stepford wife.

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

Bwahaha! That’ll be the day! I am unlikely ever to come close to that profile.

Thanks, Carl. 😀

7. judithhb - March 29, 2012

I don’t know why complete strangers feel they have the right to tell us what to do. I had such a conversation the other day. I didn’t tell the guy what he should do with his life – how come he thought it OK to tell me?

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

It’s a mystery, Judith. :mrgreen:

I guess some people have polished their lives to perfection . . . so they want to steer the rest of the steer in the “right direction.”

8. Three Well Beings - March 29, 2012

I agree with cuhome. and really admire your restraint. It might not even be restraint as much as you just don’t put the energy into being defensive! I am quite sure that at the very least my body language would betray my thoughts–which wouldn’t be calm. I went back and read your previous post, too, about “Miss Perfect”–wow! I admire the way you don’t back down, but do hold back on knocking someone else down–I am sure you could. I think I’m so often “too quiet” in these moments when I might support my beliefs/thoughts/opinions to the contrary, because I know I can escalate an issue and be a blast of angry air, and I don’t want to be that 🙂 You reply with grace. I’m paying attention, Nancy!

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

Thanks, Debra. I used to have to “restrain myself” . . . now I tend to “step back” and watch scenes like these unfold with a degree of “detached amusement.”

From that place of detachment, I remind myself that what they think of me is NONE of my business. Since my Ego is not threatened by their IRRELEVANT OPINIONS about how I should live MY life, I can calmly decide whether and how to respond.

It helps that I don’t enjoy feeling angry . . . I much prefer being amused by people’s arrogance and audacity.

I am much more likely to get “defensive” if the lawyer in me decides to enter a fray to protect someone else from the “bullies of life.” 😀

9. sufilight - March 29, 2012

I cannot be pushed to do anything or else the rebel in me wants to do it even less. 🙂

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

I’m with you, Marie. People who attempt to manipulate, bully, or shame me into “joining the rest of herd” are always disappointed.

One of my favorite Jane Austen quotes:

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.

~ Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, ch. 31

10. Andra Watkins - March 29, 2012

People love to classify others. I can’t stand to be categorized, either. I think the differences among people, their choices, are interesting. The world would be boring if everybody were just like me.

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

People like predictability and consistency . . . they want to know what to expect . . . so they encourage us to conform to the norm.

Let’s re-form the norm, rather than conform. 😉

11. sweetdaysundertheoaks - March 29, 2012

Nancy that is why I so love the age I am now. It took till I was 50 to find the NO word. I have perfected it at 60. I have nothing to prove anymore. I need to be where I am comfortable to be good to anyone!

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

Yes! That’s it . . . we have nothin’ to prove to no one! 😀

12. souldipper - March 29, 2012

How dare you be an individual? What’s with this non-conformity? Don’t you know you MUST fit in?

Our judges come in many disguises. To thine own self be true…

And you are, Nancy. Phew!

nrhatch - March 29, 2012

It’s so funny how these wannabe “sheep herders” are willing to work “pro bono” to keep us in line. 😆

13. JannatWrites - March 29, 2012

I guarantee you, no one would want to live in a house I had a hand in building – like you, it’s not my area of expertise. Good for you for standing up and getting him to back off.

I hate it when someone brow-beats and tries to get me to volunteer…don’t they know it’s not volunteering if the victim is forced/coerced??

nrhatch - March 30, 2012

Yes!!! True giving comes from the HEART . . . not from feelings of shame and guilt. 😀

I can see it now . . . “the house that Janna built” (with my un-able assistance):

The walls are not plumb
The porch is not square
The windows are cockeyed
And won’t let in fresh air
The doors don’t quite close
The toilets aren’t flush
The walls are marred
With lines from the brush

But, hey, we gave it our best shot. 😉

14. Jas - March 29, 2012

like that analogy…. so where this free radical is heading?

nrhatch - March 30, 2012

She’s watching the path unfold before her.

15. thirdhandart - March 29, 2012

I love it when individuals stand up to wannabe “sheep herders”. You go Nancy! I truly admire your courage!

nrhatch - March 30, 2012

Thanks, Theresa. Standing up and speaking out gets easier with practice . . . it helps if it comes from a place of compassion and amusement rather than frustration and anger. 😀

It’s important to remind people that we don’t have to climb into the boxes they’ve selected for us.

16. atreegrowsinbklyn - March 30, 2012

How wonderful that you could respond with grace and authenticity.

Honestly, we all have the potential to be that passionate philosophizing pest. The type of interaction you described, takes place all the time; whether you get cornered at a cocktail party or preached at in a blog post. In fact, I suspect these types of exchanges are on the increase because (thanks to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) we have so many forums in which to prattle on about our “stuff”; we develop a distorted sense of how relevant and engaging our “stuff” really is in the scheme of things. (I do think the way to counteract the distortion is to read more blogs, etc. as evidence that there are so many ways to live, give, and be in the world)

I’ve faced similar interactions. These exchanges have more to do with the pursuer’s desire to promote themselves rather than a quest to make me over in their own image or to convert me to their cause. It’s rarely about me; it’s almost always about them.

We love to hear ourselves talk. It just sounds like you happened to run into a less eloquent, less entertaining and less palatable self-promoter. 😉

nrhatch - March 30, 2012

Yes! They want to promote their own efforts to “save the world” AND have us validate their choices by agreeing to follow in their footsteps (or explain why we can’t but admire them for their contribution).

It definitely stems from a desire to feed their Egos . . . not from a spiritual place of grace.

17. Victoria-writes - March 30, 2012

Do what you want to do Nancy, it’s your life!

nrhatch - March 30, 2012


18. bluebee - March 30, 2012

A few years ago I met a woman at a dinner party who, on finding out that my husband and I were childless, pronounced that people who don’t have children are selfish. I was astounded, not only at her exceptionally bad manners but her unconsidered and simplistic response – some people just cannot see beyond themselves

nrhatch - March 30, 2012

Selfish? To whom?

In a world that is already bulging at its seams, adults who choose not to crank out children should be congratulated, not pressured into having offspring just because having kids is a culturally sanctioned activity.

If you’re interested: https://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/free-to-be-child-free/

19. Team Oyeniyi - March 30, 2012

Love it. Don’t people love to tell you what you SHOULD do? Although in all honesty, Nancy, I do think that is more a USA trait than Aussie.

nrhatch - March 30, 2012

That’s it . . . I’m moving. 😉

Team Oyeniyi - March 30, 2012

Drop by any time! 🙂 Oh, and I finally finished my article that starts quoting you. 🙂

nrhatch - March 30, 2012

Cool! I look forward to reading it. And thanks for the invite . . . maybe one day I’ll take you up on it.

20. Crowing Crone Joss - March 31, 2012

“you really need to….” “You really should….” I’m too old, now, heh heh, to pay attention to those lines. I really should be me! and that’s it. I really need to let the path unfold before me, just because.
I honour others path and I like for them to honour mine!
And when they don’t I just shake the dust off my sandals and move on. hmmmm, maybe I’m a free radical too.

nrhatch - March 31, 2012

Good for you, Joss! When sheep herders nip at our heels to corral us into a corner with the rest of the flock . . . it’s up to us to ignore them and do our own thing.

Crowing Crone Joss - March 31, 2012

yes indeed. and I believe we both do that with grace!

nrhatch - March 31, 2012

Or at least with good humor. :mrgreen:

21. crumbld - April 3, 2012

I do work, betimes, with Habitat, but for my own selfish reasons … I like making sawdust and building houses, and it’s a good cause that affords me the opportunity to do both. I eschew most “causes” and can be quite vocal about my “get outta my face” attitude.

Recently ripped a strip off the government (the Don Quixote in me demands a windmill on occasion) for an ad campaign run by some charity for overseas relief the donations to which would be equally matched by the government. Did some checking before I tilted … 93% of the revenue this agency generated was spent overseas, with only 7% spent domestically, AND the government had the audacity … effrontery … to offer to match my after tax donation dollar for dollar with my tax dollars, to aid an overseas cause while ignoring issues at home? I don’t think so, Tim.

I believe in giving back, but I’ll give back to those I think deserving, in whatever way works for me, and ain’t nobody gonna guilt me into their mindset about how and what and when and why.

Radical? No question … always have been, expect to carry on in the same vein. Graceful? I’ll leave that to you, Nancy. You’re far better at it than am I.

nrhatch - April 3, 2012

Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. I believe in giving back to organizations of MY choosing.

Habitat is a terrific organization, but I’m not proficient with hammers, nails, or ladders . . . and the sound of power equipment makes me jumpy. So it’s not a good fit for my time and talents.

22. eof737 - April 22, 2012

It’ll make em feel better… perhaps. 😉

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