"Look into your own heart; discover what is that gives you pain. And then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else." ~Karen Armstrong
I used to think that life's lessons had to slap us in the face, a harsh reality, a cold shower on a Monday morning kind of experience. I am now slowly discovering that opportunities to grow as a human being, to remember who we really are, our soul's purpose, lies in the mundane details of daily life.
A week ago I agreed to dog-sit for a woman as she planned to travel with her family over Thanksgiving Break for ten days. Now, I am a true animal lover, so this seemed like an easy, fun way to make some extra cash for the Holiday. The woman (we'll call her Sally) and I agreed on a price, and we arranged to have our dogs meet beforehand to ensure they were compatible. A few days later, Sally, her dog, and child came over to my home. We chatted while the boy and the dogs played in the backyard. After about an hour, we concurred that the dogs were well-behaved together. We hammered out the final details, such as drop-off times and his eating schedule, and the family went on their way. On Saturday, I organized my day so I could be home when Sally dropped off her dog. Now, she had mentioned between 3:30 and 4:30 pm, so I wasn't overly concerned that hadn't heard from her. I figured she was super busy trying to navigate packing, and life in general, in order to be gone for ten days. Plus, we had an arrangement, so no need to worry about it. By 5:00 pm, I did begin to wonder. I texted her, asking when she was dropping off her dog. I even posted a smiley face emoji to assure her no big deal, just curious. By 7:00 pm, I had received no response. I texted her again, asking if I had possibly made a mistake on the time, or worse yet, the day.
No. Response. At. All.
At this point, I am a little confused, hoping she is okay. But, by the next morning, there is still no reply, and I am irritated times infinity. And the more I thought about it, the angrier I felt. Who does this woman think she is? How disrespectful! I didn't care so much that the dog wasn't coming to stay; I was frustrated that someone would just ignore my attempts to reach out when she was clearly in the wrong. Why not just tell me she made other arrangements? That would be the grown up thing to do. On and on these thoughts swirled in my head until I decided to send her a text standing up for myself. It was my intention to tell her how I felt, as well as tell her what she did wrong. Oh, the teacher in me comes out at times...
I proceeded to send Sally a message that included words like confused, disrespectful, reasonable, accommodating, unacceptable, yada, yada, yada....In a black and white world, all of these words made sense. Sally had not acted in a professional manner when dealing with someone who was providing a service for her. But, the world is gray, folks. Beautiful, varying shades of gray. A place where perception is one's own reality.
Finally, I got a reply. Sally stated that she had come against a family emergency causing her to cancel all Holiday plans, hadn't looked at her phone and was sorry for any inconvenience. Ok, now I can understand shit happens, we have all been there. I responded how sorry I was for her family emergency, however, I felt that if she canceled her trip, that must have involved the phone, so I felt I could have been part of the cancellation process. I will admit at this point, part of me was calling bullshit. But what I was truly feeling was a sense of aggravation that our society has become such that we blame everything and everybody for our poor behavior. Take responsibility for actions, Sally!
Just say you are sorry. End of story.
Now at this point, I knew that I was allowed to feel whatever I felt. Feelings are fleeting, and they are just that, feelings. Nothing more, nothing less. While I wanted to honor my feelings, I also knew the immense obligation I had to choose my response to those feelings. Anger is okay; reacting in a negative, violent or hostile way is not. Believe me, I know that those lines get blurred so quickly and so often we do not step back, take a breath, pause in the moment before acting.
Sally's response was, " Again, I apologize."
I put down my phone, and I went into the bathroom. I felt a heaviness, a sadness and more than a little sick to my stomach. I looked at myself in the mirror, and I realized that person who responded was not who I am anymore. That girl was so weighed down with the wall she had built inside herself, she couldn't feel compassion for herself, let alone others. That is not me. That pattern of thinking, this portion of the wall was ready to be toppled. It no longer served me. I didn't need to be that girl in your face because I was so hurt, I wanted to hurt you, too. I promptly returned to my phone and left this message.
"Look, I apologize. I am just disappointed because I needed that money for Christmas. I do believe that the situation could have been handled differently, but it is not my place to tell you how to act. I don't like coming from that place, so I am going to come from a place of compassion. I am truly sorry for your family emergency. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Family is more important than money."
I instantly felt relieved, like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. And actually, it had. That weight was a small brick of what was part of a much bigger wall, a wall breaking down my wall. One brick at a time through the help of love, compassion, and peace.
It really doesn't matter if you "believe" someone deserves it. The truth is, You do, I do, she does. We all deserve love and compassion. We have all effed up royally, and just think in one of those instances, someone had responded in love, even if you didn't "deserve" it. Because those are the times you need and deserve love the most. Making mistakes is the way we learn how to handle a situation; how we grow spiritually. It is us at our most vulnerable, our most open state.
Ego: But I was right!!
Soul: Who cares, if it leaves you feeling this way?
So that part of me that tried to interject with the possibility that the woman may be lying.....it doesn’t matter. That is on her, not me. It is not my responsibility to police her actions or choices. I have no control over this woman, only my reaction to her. I realized that my best option is to respond with love and compassion for her, despite what the situation may or may not be.
Even as I write this, fears of judgment pop up in my head. Opinions by others about my feelings, thoughts, and words. But those illusions and misconceptions are exactly what built and fortified my wall. Trying to protect ourselves with bricks of fear may hide our vulnerability, our weak spots, but it also hides our love, our light, our goodness. A wall brings darkness, so I will continue to break down my wall, brick by brick by refusing to hide in fear. I will let myself be vulnerable, I will let myself feel pain, I will let myself love and be loved. I will let myself tear down another brick in the wall.