Really, I do. Not in the “I want people to like me” way – at 43, I’ve pretty much let that one go. Some people like me, some people don’t, and while I wish everyone thought that I was wonderful that’s just never going to be the case. No, what I’m looking for is more compassion and more patience. I hear the catty and judgmental things that come out of my mouth, the snappish responses when I’m annoyed (which is way too often), and at times I’m fairly appalled by them. This isn’t who I want to be.
When I was in San Francisco last summer with a colleague visiting Buddhists and Hindus and Taoists (oh my!), we found ourselves running all over creation to make our various appointments, and props to the fabulous subway and bus system for getting us everywhere we needed to go. One day one of the trains ran late, which caused us to miss a bus to Oakland; when we got there we still had a decent walk ahead of us to get where we were going. We had not been able to call the person with whom we had the appointment to let him know that we were running late. (Short interjection here – I really hate to be late. Really. It throws me totally off balance.) I remember rushing in the door when we finally did get there, maybe half an hour late, sweaty from the walk and totally flustered. “I’m so sorry we’re late,” I hurled into the empty air as soon as we opened the door. And then the man we were there to meet, a Taoist practitioner who looked not in the least put out by our tardiness, gently took my hand in greeting, looked in my eyes, and said, “But you’re here now.” In that one small moment I felt such a flood of tension run out of my body, because with just these few quiet words and gentle touch, he had called me back to my true self.
The gentleman was centered, focused and relaxed. We spoke for an hour or more, and he was helpful and informative, never seeming rushed at all, even when another person showed up with whom he was supposed to meet – delayed, of course, by us being late. He was kindness, the kind of kindness that I want to be, the kindness that comes not from some sort of mental construction telling him that being kind is the Right Thing, but rather from his actions and words welling up from an indwelling compassion.
And there you have it. Compassion. Another one of those things that need to start at home, with ourselves, no less. I may get rid of catty statements and snappish remarks by keeping the door of my lips, as the Bible puts it, but the internal move toward real kindness doesn’t come about just because I manage not to say what I am nevertheless thinking. It comes from letting go of the judgments and feelings that I know better that drive the remarks in the first place.
So here goes. I want to be a nicer person. Day One.
Postscript – In between writing this on paper and transferring it to the computer, I ran late to something because my son was dawdling, and so I ended up yelling at him. Okay, Day One, take two.