A friend recently accused me of being contrary, said that I had an incontrovertible tendency to go in the opposite direction of whatever anyone requests of me. The friend seemed to think I didn’t know I had such a fault, which is true. I didn’t. (Except for when I feel taken for granted or discounted. Then, yes, I do dig in my heels.)
I took an informal poll of other friends, and it seems as if most people thought I was too accommodating, that I tended to be too conciliatory. I accept my brother’s nastiness, I do what people ask whenever possible, and if in my power, I will do what I can to make people happy. (Yeah, I know — you can never make anyone happy, but still, you can go out of your way too keep from adding to their misery.)
Contrary means “perversely inclined to disagree or to do the opposite of what is expected or desired.” By that definition, contrariness seems to go hand-in-hand with obligation, as if I have an obligation to do what people request of me or expect of me. If there is no obligation, there can be no contrariness, perverse or otherwise, because if I do what I want to do rather than what other people want me to do, I am going in the direction I want to go.
I admit I am contrary when it comes to ideas. I don’t accept ideas just because most other people do. I tend to be a bit of a skeptic, taking the known with a strong dose of curiosity and questioning. I’m not particularly an out-of-the-box thinker since out-of-the-boxness implies more of an imagination than I have, but so often I am not even aware of the box.
I write books that are contrary to genre expectations (for example, my good guy and bad guy never duke it out at the end).
I’ve also lived a contrary life, not embracing the consumerism of our society, not following fashion, not watching television programming (though I do watch taped movies via a television). My plans/hopes/ideas for the future all go contrary to what is normally expected of a no-longer-young woman on her own.
I even go contrary to myself at times — trying things that are out of character, or doing things I am afraid of doing. I try to say yes to any invitation even if I am not so inclined in an effort to continue going contrary to my nature.
Although I started out this post trying to prove how uncontrary I am, I have to agree with the friend who thinks I am contrary. I do, however, disagree with the judgment that my contrariness is a fault. Seems like a necessary attribute to embrace if one wants to merrily go along, living a life of beauty and folly no matter what anyone else expects or desires.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.