Monday, November 7, 2011

Knowing Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

—Naomi Shihab Nye

I'm feeling reflective again, thinking about relationships and my own responses to others.  Sometimes I fall into the space of being on-guard when dealing with people and  being very concerned about someone seeing me in a way I don't want to be seen, and being willing to die on the cross defending the correct image.  Guess what?  That's not a place I want to live. That's not the way I want to be.  I could explain and justify all the reasons WHY I go there, how I got to be that way, but it doesn't really matter. All that matters is that I am sort of that way and I need to think differently when something riles me up, instead of jumping into overreact or attack mode.  It's my choice how I react and I don't have to feel offended or angry.  And I don't want to. I want so much to live in peace, harmonious with others. 

For instance, I want to be a better parent.  When Jack uses my shower and covers the drain to make a mini bath and a little water spills on the floor, I should not yell at him and freak out.  I should say, 'hey buddy, next time take a bath', or' just try to keep the water in the shower, yo.'  Parental reprimands probably shouldn't start with 'Goddamit Jack!"  Maybe once in a while for something super naughty, it's ok, but in general, I need to step back and relax and as a friend once said about my management style, half as much...half as much.  That's right. 

Or like when Scott scheduled Caroline's teacher conference on a day I'll be out of town, without even asking me.  My instant reaction was: pissed!  How could he not even think of asking me!  He knew I was going to be out of town that day!  I take offense!!  But before I called him to bitch about it, I stopped. I thought, I'm choosing to feel slighted.  Stop it!  There was no malintent.  Relax.  Call and tell him it doesn't work for me that day and to please talk to me first next time.  So, I did.  And we worked it out peacefully. And I didn't have to feel mad about it.  Yay!

Or like when someone says something to you that you know they don't mean to be hurtful, but you choose to take it that way anyhow and tell them.  And choose to be offended and get upset.  Why do that?  Don't be so concerned with setting straight well-meaning people.  And for goodness sakes, don't lose your temper.  And when you do, apologize. And hope the people around you love you enough to accept it.  And to accept you, and to know that you will always try to do better. 

One of my Sisters, Many Blankets, just handed me a piece of paper with a poem about attitude on it.  It totally goes with all of the above.  Part of her poem says:
"Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than what people say or do."


1 comment:

  1. Terrific post. Being able to reflect on these moments, and learn from them, is important (and a trait you have). Don't scold yourself too much, though. No doubt Buddha is deadly dull to hang with. You are not dull.