Taking it personally is a tough way to live


I had a childhood friend who found a way to take offense in almost every situation. She was a fragile flower.

People always seemed to take a certain "tone" when she was around.  They looked at her "funny" and she never seemed to have the information she needed because "no one ever told" her anything.

It wasn't hard to see why her life seemed so challenging when she was determined to take every bump in the road as a a personal slight.

And yet, I know she's not alone. To some degree we all have areas where we are overly sensitive and easily insulted. Finding slights, whether intended or real is a skill most of us possess.

The poem below is written by Tony Hoagland, and it's a terrific word picture of the struggle to break free; to forgive; to overlook an insult.

I hope you find it as refreshing a reminder as I did.


Don’t take it personal, they said; but I did, I took it all quite personal--

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields; the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain-- And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy, the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father, with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom, with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard; barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else to take it personal too.

- Tony Hoagland