I just went for salad and got a life lesson….

On my way to work I stopped at the grocery store, heading directly to the salad bar, my habituated lunch choice. Once there, I noticed a woman standing a few feet from the earth-friendly paper boxes I needed. It looked as though she was simply waiting for her friend, who was a few feet from her at the bread counter.

I said, “Excuse me,” to her, paused momentarily, and then stepped between her and the much needed salad box. As I pulled the top box from the stack, she said, “Well, pardon me.” Accent on the WELL.

I felt the agitation in her voice. She was telling me I had rudely moved into her space. I held my breath and felt my own irritation with her as I recognized this as a choice point. How do I choose to respond? Do I apologize for my perceived affront or do I assert my intention? I took a moment.

I often base my decision, in these awkward moments, on my mood at the time. I am not proud of this method of determining my next move. I know I should base it on the highest good for all man and woman-kind. I should engage with her and explain myself. I should be nice. I should be relational. I should. I should.

Instead of what I should have done, I went with my tired, pissy and in-a-hurry mood. I responded with equal exasperation. I spoke over my shoulder to her, “I said excuse me.” Accent on the SAID.

She responded,”Well, I didn’t hear you.” Accent on the WELL, I DIDN’T HEAR YOU.

By this time I was half way down the first side of the salad bar. I had my spring mix, grapeimages tomatoes, peas and was scooping-up some chick peas, answering her in my head, “Well, is it my job to make sure you hear me? How am I supposed to know you didn’t? Why didn’t you just move when you saw me headed for the salad boxes?”

I was working myself into a fit. How dare she!!!

Another choice point. Do I say any of this to her? Do I share my grumpy disposition further? Or do I save it for later when I need to I argue with Verizon about this months’ bill? I wasn’t sure I wanted to unload on a random woman at the salad bar.

As I was contemplating my next move and heaping coals on my defense, her friend came quietly up beside me. “Please let me apologize for my friends behavior,” she said, “she has dementia and this is not a good day for her.”

I was mortified with myself.

I looked this woman in the eye and told her it was really okay, I understood and thanked her for telling me.

I was ashamed. I was also extremely grateful I kept my indignation to myself; fully aware that my silence was not due to my niceness but to my indecisiveness.

I finished making my salad. Quietly. Humbly. I began to judge myself, telling myself what an awful person I am for being mean to a woman with dementia. Why couldn’t I just be nice? What was the big deal? So she said something snarky, couldn’t I have just risen above it, been my higher self?

As I moved toward the 10-items-or-less check out line, I stopped at the baked goods to bag a chocolate chip, pecan cookie, not that I deserved dessert after my bad behavior, and found myself standing next to the same two women. I overheard their loving interaction with each other. I was touched. I noticed how the woman that that approached me took care of her friend. They, too, were after something sweet.

In that moment of feeding our mutual sweet tooth’s, I felt our mutual humanness and fragility. I recognized how our humanity is sometimes the good news and other times the bad news.

I realized I can, or will, be my highest self…unless I am not. But, it is my job to take responsibility for both. Most of us are really trying doing our best. Everyday. Sometimes our best is lovely. Sometimes our best is not so great.

If I keep that in mind, I will be gentler with your humanness…as well as my own.

Humbly Yours,

waxseal2

 

 

 

Don’t Always Believe What You Think

We all do it. We make up stories. We conjure what others think of us, we invent what will happen if we speak up or take action, and we ruminate on what someone meant when they said, “that,” to us. The problem with all this is…almost always, 99.9% of the time, more often than not, the story we make up leaves us feeling like doggy poop! We tell ourselves the worst possible scenarios, with the most devastating endings. We heckle ourselves with, “They said that because they don’t like me, I am so weird, no one really cares anyway.” We conclude, “Something awful is about to happen (I will lose my job, be left, be rejected).” At the end of all this we feel very, very bad about ourselves.

 

Sound familiar?

 

Recently I made up the story that everything I said in my meditation class was really stupid. What every one else said was eloquent and enlightening. I didn’t stop there. I told myself that no one really cared what I had to say anyway. As I looked around the room I could read on my classmates faces that they agreed with me. “See,” I said to myself, “I am right, so just keep quiet. Don’t say another thing.”

 

I am what you may call a sophisticated self criticizer. I corroborate my story by interpreting the other persons non verbal cues-body language. “See they blinked, that means they are secretly rolling their eyes. They crossed their arms, everyone knows what that means. They cleared their throat…they sat down, they stood up, they scratched their nose.” I could go on and on. The beauty of this is it is one more way I tell myself my story is right. How I love to be right!

 

The truth, however, was I had no idea what my classmates were thinking about me. I just knew what I told myself they were thinking. Worse yet, I believed myself. I noticed what I told myself they were thinking sounded an awful lot like what I was saying about myself. “What a stupid thing to say, no one cares…” Hmmm. I see a pattern here.

 

I say nasty things to myself then tell myself some one else is saying it to me. Very clever, my dear Patricia. What a system. Too bad I lose…every single time.

 

My solution? If I am going to make up a story, make it a kind one. One that leaves me feeling loved and respected. Instead of assuming what I say is stupid, what if I assumed someone in the class liked what I said and that it had value to them?

 

In graduate school, my mentor, Ed Jacobs told me, “50% of the people are alway going to like you and 50% of the people are always not going to like you. Why not stand with the 50% that like you?” If I took his advise my stories, albeit still made up, would leave me wanting to hang out with myself.

 

I will no longer believe everything I think. Unless it is kind.