So, I’m new to “mindfulness.” Actually, I’m inherently distrustful of anything new-agey-sounding. I like to think that I got my hippy-rebellion-post-everything stage over early. But I have started to notice and pay attention to my interactions with other people in a new (and perhaps “mindful”) way. This has had a number of very strange, and in many ways harmful, side-effects.
It was much easier for me to be in the world around humans before I started paying attention. I wasn’t close to most people, but I was fine with that. I used to pretend that people couldn’t see me, and in my mind, that gave me license to not really pay attention to them. That gave me a nice little bubble to operate in.
Paying attention to other people and holding in my constant awareness that they are paying attention to me and being affected by my actions and words is challenging. My skin has become much thinner. I am consciously aware of when other people are not behaving well. With me, towards me, but also towards themselves and other people. I am even aware of intentional slights that would have gone blissfully over my head six months ago. And I’m aware of my own poor behavior. I am aware of every snippy comment, every abrupt gesture, every lack of generosity. I am aware of how my mood affects others. I am aware of how my attitude changes the temperature in a room.
This is a lot of data that I am unaccustomed to.
This has affected my relationships with everyone on every level. And mostly, it is a struggle. But the biggest challenge, I’m discovering, is with the people who see me the most (big surprise!): my work colleagues. They are, each one, good people. They are good at their job. They are mostly kind. They all have a healthy sense of humor. They are fun to be around. And they all also have their little quirks, their own “mental health issues,” and their life dramas that they are going through. Just exactly the same as me. But we have to deal with each other day after day. And we have to deal with each other when we are upset, having a bad day, being (mostly unintentionally) rude to each other. We have to deal with each other when we are having our random issues that are triggered by each other. We just have to deal with each other. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
This is hard for me.
But I just got home from work, and I realized something that should have been painfully obvious. No, I don’t know how to deal with this one issue that one of my colleagues has with me that keeps coming up over and over. No, I can’t fix that other problem that another colleague is struggling with that affects us all. No, I haven’t figured out how to force myself to be happy when I’m not, or how to hide it. I don’t have an answer to a single one of these inter-personal problems that I am now aware of that is troubling me. But I did realize one thing that I CAN do. And I can ALWAYS do it, no matter what.
I can be nice.
If I haven’t eaten enough and I’m in a pissy mood, I can still be nice. I can ask nicely for what I need. I can say “please” and “thank you.” I can smile. I can remember that I’m dealing with another human who is dealing with whatever. If someone is rude to me, If someone is pawning off one of their issues on me, if someone is thoughtless, it doesn’t matter. I can still be nice.
I’m not talking about being self-sacrificing or holy. I’m not talking about ignoring whatever real, legitimate issues exist that must, I’m sure, eventually be dealt with. But no matter what they are, no matter where I am mentally or emotionally, I can still approach the world and the people around me with respect and kindness.
This shouldn’t be such a revelation for me, perhaps, but it is. Cheers!