Q: I obviously did or said something wrong. Whatever it is that I did, I am now on the gossip trail and it seems that everyone in town is either talking about me incessantly or simply avoiding me.
My friends are not phoning me as they used to and when a small group of them took off down to the United States to do some shopping, I was not invited.
This is horrible. I don’t think that I have ever felt so alone in our little town as I do now.
The problem is that I don’t know what to do about it. I want to scream and shout, let it all hang out, tell everyone that I don’t deserve this, that everything is just wrong. But I don’t. I sit at home and feel sorry for myself and that’s no good. What can I do?
A: I don’t think that anything is more damning to a person’s integrity than being caught in the spin of community gossip, especially in our small prairie towns.
It is isolating, demeaning, lonely and frustrating. The only good news about it is that it generally does not last long. Some of your neighbours may carry a grudge for a while but most won’t and you can expect to have some moments of time with your friends within the next short while. Until that happens, I would like to offer some suggestions to you.
The first is, don’t be afraid to admit that you might have hit a social miscue somewhere along the way. All of us do. It is not the end of the world and it certainly does not mean that the rest of the community should in some way punish you.
It is just one of those things that happens and the more that you can accept your errors for their insignificance, the less you will react when you are victimized by your community’s gossip.
My second suggestion is that you hold the course. What I mean by that is that you should not let remarks from your community run interference with your daily routines. If you go to church on Sundays, keep going to church. Shop in the stores where you usually shop and pick up the mail from the post office when you would normally get it. The less you let the community gossip influence your daily routines, the sooner it will go away.
The same is true for those who you previously thought were your friends. When you see them walking down the street, say “hi” to them. If they turn away, or clearly try to avoid you, let them. Their discomfort is their problem, not yours. You do not have to pretend that you don’t see them just because it might be awkward for them.
Finally, stay positive. I know that the face of derision is sometimes overwhelming but the more you can stay focused on all that is wonderful about you, the more likely it is that it will strike a chord of personal autonomy that you may not have previously experienced.
It is that self-worth that will guide you through those discouraging moments when you are left with the puzzle of what is really going on.
Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.