The Not-Joy of Being Ignored
Are pet peeves meant to whip us into spiritual shape? When something triggers us emotionally, isn't that a sign that we aren't at peace, that we have given this "thing" power over us, that we have something to forgive, to let go, to accept?
For me these days, being ignored is that thing. It really bothers me, and it's happened a few times in the last two years with people who I thought were "above" or beyond ignoring. People who I expected were able to speak up, even if it meant saying something awkward. And then my own greatest masterpiece, my daughter, brought the topic to the table -- ignoring people in a way that seemed to ask me to step-up. Teach her. Show her. Dive into it. At this point ignoring is knocking on my door.
Let's start with spiritual responsibility -- or personal responsibility. When I am being ignored enough to bother me, I need to look in the mirror. Am I ignoring people? Is this my own unhealthy habit staring back at me?
All I need to do here is pay attention and step up. Live the Golden Rule, be the change I wish to see in the world. When someone calls to me, respond. Beggar on a city sidewalk or my husband. Respond. I can do this.
It was two years ago when the first ignoring instance happened -- a significant one, not a little small silly thing where I called to a stranger, asked them a question and they ignored me. I can let that wash off my shoulders. This was a bold, intelligent, empowered woman friend who I had written to from Sweden. Along with a long, beautiful letter, I had sent her children drawings from my daughter. When I didn't hear back I reached out again, months later, and... nothing. She ignored me.
Fast forward one year. Her ignoring me didn't weigh me down. I called her one day out of the blue to see if she was willing to talk about marriage -- out of the box, because she is a free thinker not constrained by the bulk of our culture's in-the-box ways.
She answered the phone and said yes. She asked me to text her to set up a time and... Flop. Ignored me again. So my mind goes through its little dance... Am I "not cool enough" for her? That sort of thing. But I happen to really like me, and that kind of thought doesn't weigh me down long.
A question remains. I'm left wondering and a bit annoyed that someone I saw as a conscious communicator could actively ignore me. How does it feel on her end?
At a recent family reunion, a family member ignored me. Upset with something I had done that somehow really upset her, she walked past me upon arrival without saying much, and left the reunion without saying bye either. She ignored me the whole time, and for decades I've been a person who can "see the pain" in this kind of behavior, who can stay mostly in a place of forgiveness, this time I felt angry. Underneath it there is sadness because the way we communicate is so, so sad to me -- but there is also anger on top, and at this point in my life I am letting all my feelings be heard. One big fat piece of ignoring. Ouch. This one hurts a bit. Will we die disconnected?
Yes anger, you get to have a voice too and I hear you. It has been decades. It is time.
In July one of my dearest long time friends visited the beach near me and I saw photos on Instagram. His daughter and I are close pals, having had many play dates when she was a little girl. I adore him -- he's wise, honest and bold and he treasures his family.
So I was a little surprised they didn't let me know they were so close, at the beach near our house. Just so I could go sip coffee with them, or take a barefoot walk in the sand. Whatever. But see them! They are very dear friends. So I texted him asking why he didn't let me know in advance. He said they needed time alone.
I get it. Life is outrageously intense these days for humans. I get it. It isn't personal.
And then I realized I had a request. Could I take this to a new level in becoming a better communicator? I asked myself. Or is it no big deal, just to be let go? The answer within me was to make a request. So I did. I left him a voice message asking if he's willing to learn from the situation with me, and hear my request. I asked: Would he, next time he is near me, just let me know in advance? If they wanted alone time, I could accept that. Truly, giving space is easy for me and 99% of the time I don't take things personally. I need two days of alone time every month. But knowing they would be near me, I realized, would feel good to me. He could say "no" to my request -- it wasn't a demand. I sent the message.
Blank. Ignored again.
Between two of these people, I get the sense I'm "too much" for them. Leave it alone, Rios, it's no big thing. Well guess what? If it is to me, it is to me. And I matter. If you care, you can extend just a few words to show it.
When I wrote long emails years ago, or when I write a long letter these days, sometimes people feel silly writing a few words back. Please don't feel silly writing just a few words back -- writing nothing is way worse than writing a few words back.
Being ignored can leave someone in an empty space, wondering. Is that the impact you intend to have?
"Thanks for the note! I'm busy at work... sending you a hug!"
"I hear you and I need space right now."
"I care for you and am just not available to talk. Let's chat next week."
Whatever it is, show love. Please don't ignore people. Babies learn the world is an unsafe place when they are ignored for too long. It hurts adults, too. If someone is being mean spirited and really off-base, calling you names and insulting you, take space! Yes, don't lean into violence and expose yourself to abuse. But if someone simply asks for help, or doesn't communicate the way you do -- ignoring is not the loving way.
8/28/2019 11:47:22 pm
Thank you for writing this. It hits me on so many different levels. I have felt ignored by my husband for years. I finally decided i didn’t want to be ignored anymore. So I decided to stop ignoring him and pay attention to him. Figuring it would help him notice me. But it has caused him to pull completely away and wonder if he wants to be married. This has rippled into our mutual friends and some of my colleagues. Some folks ignore me as if I have a contagious disease.
8/31/2019 08:02:44 am
Deep, honest share Ginger-- thank you. Sounds like you are in a powerful place of owning your role in creating the world you want, one that honors you and those around you. High five!
9/3/2019 01:34:23 pm
Wow deep! As an introvert if I could just say nothing and hug people and then leave, all my prayers would be answered. I personally am so overwhelmed by all the words I have to come up with. So here I go, I’m sending a huge! huge! hug to you and your sweet peoples. And there in lies deep love and respect for you and your always beautiful insights.
9/3/2019 01:50:44 pm
Thank you Jen for your words of kindness! As someone who is also primarily introverted, I get it! Silence is lovely. Words can be overdone. And hugs are a GREAT way to communicate sometimes. That said-- a hug is NOT ignoring people. A hug is honoring. Ignoring to me is when there is nothing said, or gestured, back at all. That is the empty place that hurts.
9/4/2019 06:14:53 am
Oh Mama. Wowzers. Thanks for your vulnerability and courage in writing about this. It really is quite something. I was having a big cry this morning during meditation about being ignored by a very special teacher. What a journey we are all on. Strengthening our own aligned Truth and action from this place- woohoo to us all for this wild work of being human. Love you so much! xoxo
9/16/2019 07:32:40 am
Thank you sweet Jessica for this sharing. I hear and feel how hard it is to be ignored and I too have been on the receiving end of being "ghosted" if you will. And yes, it feels awful. But I have to tell my truth hear too. And I hope this not too far off your post. I am not a great communicator online, via txt, or via mail. I wish it weren't true but those closest to me know it they really need me they may need to call or wait until we are in person. This is something I am working on a friend, a mother, and a professional. I know in our technological age most people want to txt back and forth, I want to hear your voice, I want to see your eyes, I want to hear your tone of voice. In my office, staff will email each other for problem solving issues or complaints. I want to sit down with the group, its just my way. My point here is... Please feel free to poke people like me a bit more if we aren't getting back in touch maybe they are just poor communicators working on improving. No to excuse anyone even myself but please know your post has reaffirmed my commitment to continue working on this issue. Love you sister!!
9/23/2019 06:42:17 pm
Oh my goodness Jessica Rios, every example you gave resonates. I am majored in Communications, in marketing/media for over a decade. I have seen the disintegration of good communication since the late 90's. If I may humbly give a few insights to this topic of being ignored and some possible reasons?
9/24/2019 12:19:24 pm
Thanks for your input, Andrea! Lots of insightful observations and yes, let's envision a world where humans feel balanced with our use of screens to type... where we reach out with our bodies, voices, selves, to connect.
9/24/2019 12:40:52 pm
Yes please let's envision a world where humans feel more balance and reach out to other humans with our bodies, voices, selves, presence! I do pray for this alot. Blessings and balance to you, thank you for bringing up an important topic of human interactions.
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Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, was born with a divine pen in her pelvis. She is a lifelong letter writer, a thought leader in Love, and she writes memoirs. Our blog and conversations are devoted to Jessica's greatest passion: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.