I wasn’t planning on writing about compassion today. I’ve been trying to spread it like wildfire recently so I’ve been taking a break and letting other voices be heard as well. Yeah, I’m a chatterer. My mother’s nickname was ‘Chatty Cathey” after the doll for a reason. And me, well, once I get to know you, (or not, if you’ve talked with me on Twitter) I may not shut up. I love talking with people. I truly do. But, every now and then, I stop talking and go quiet. Nothing’s wrong, I just need to sit back and listen. Take the emotional temperature of the world before I move forward. In a way it’s like dancing. You get tired and you take a break, then dance again after you’ve rested. For me, that’s exactly what I do with my emotions and feelings. I have to take a break and recharge.
That’s a bit of what I’ve been doing this week. I have had one heck of a ride the last two weeks. Things I didn’t expect or even dream about have happened. And it’s mostly good stuff. So I have no reason to complain about anything. Plus, I try really hard to NOT complain about things. So much so that I have a tendency to pull away from people I love because I think I might be burdening them with my own problems and I don’t like doing that either. For one thing, whatever is bothering me is my own problem to deal with, and, besides, I have a few friends who I know won’t be bothered if I ‘vent’ to them. They’ll understand that what I am really doing is letting the pressure out so it won’t build up, which is something that I used to have a problem with. I used to keep everything bottled up inside. I still do that with some things. Which is another reason I think I took to writing and poetry. I could write my feelings into a poem and you’d never truly know what I was really meaning or who I was referring to. Some are pretty obvious but I have some that you’d never guess what I’m actually talking about. And that brings me to why I’m writing about compassion today.
Let me ask you a question: is there anyone in your life that just makes you wish they weren’t in your life but you have no choice but to tolerate them? Little things that they do, even if you aren’t bothered by anyone else doing them, annoy you to no end and make you want to react in a completely irrational way. And you only act like this horrible, ugly-spirited person around them. It doesn’t even matter that maybe you can justify your feelings and reactions, they make you so crazy with the intensity of your dislike that it borders on hate. And you aren’t a hateful person. You don’t really hate this person, just what they represent to you. Or maybe it’s not one person. Maybe it’s an entity, like going to Wal-mart and dealing with the kind of mentality in people that shop or work there.
I have had several people in my life that made me feel as if I am a horrible person because of the feelings they engender in me. I don’t like it when people hold grudges because I’m not the type that can. When I get angry, yes, you know I am angry. I don’t go around spitting mad. I’m the silent brooding type. I’ll go sit in my bedroom, or, if I’m really mad, I’ll go on a cleaning spree even if it’s in the middle of the night. I will withdraw emotionally from you and answer with as few words as I possibly can, or I will shut up altogether. And by the time I am THAT angry with you, I’ve let every thing else go until I blast you and then I’m fine. Honestly, my bark (what little you do get) is worse than my bite. Truly. I clear up quickly. In fact, I get over things so fast that I have confused people by how I can be back to normal (relative to your definition) when I just blew up at you. I am also the first one to apologize. I don’t like being angry or upset. I really don’t. So, I will do whatever it takes to avoid those feelings. Grudges are a waste of my time and energy and they make me feel bad, and at some point I actually forget why I’m angry. And the way my brain and emotions are tied together, I can be having an argument and be spitting furious with you, then it hits me that we’re being ridiculous, or what were we fighting about anyway, then I begin laughing and that’s it. I’m done. Once I start to laugh, the worst is over. That is why when I do have a grievance I have serious trouble getting over, it has to be something that is really driving me crazy. Combine that with it being from one of THOSE people (the ones we discussed earlier), and I become Ms. Hyde. And recently, Ms. Hyde has been making an appearance, and I don’t like it. I know we all have a dark side but this is one I don’t want.
The biggest problem is that I end up feeling no compassion for the person causing my distress. I am not even indifferent in my feelings toward this person. It is full on ugly-all-the-time-anger no matter what. If I happen to look in a mirror after an encounter I don’t like the person I see staring back at me. And I can give myself reasons to keep feeling that anger, that I’m justified because of this or that. But inside, I know I’m wrong to feel this way. I know that were someone else in my shoes they would probably feel and react the same way. Still not a reason to act the way I want to act. To stay mad. To act irrationally just because I don’t like what the person is doing. Even if I think the person is being an inconsiderate ass, or if I think I’m being disrespected, or if I’m just not feeling good that day and my patience is low.
I don’t want to feel compassion for this person. I want to stay mad and be angry. I don’t want this person in my life. To be honest, I don’t want to know what this person is going through or why I am being singled out for their passive-aggressive stance. More than likely they don’t even know that what they are doing is bothering me and it’s not a situation where I can tell them. This is me being tested by compassion. It’s this particular time when I need to practice compassion the most, and towards the person upsetting me. And it is so hard to do precisely because I don’t want to. So, how do you get through a situation like this?
I can’t tell you. I have no answer. I struggle with myself every day about it. I bite my tongue a lot. I think before I say anything that might inflame into a regretful situation. I check my actions and my emotions so that I might react in a more positive way. And then when I am away from the situation I let myself feel the anger, and the regret at my becoming Ms. Hyde, and I try and meditate. Sometimes it helps and sometimes I end up still so mad that I can’t meditate. I pull out some poetry, I throw on some music. I try to distract myself until I am calm again. And then I try to reset my brain. I think about how I could have handled the situation better, or what I could have done to alleviate my own feelings of frustration. Some days the best I can do is leave the room.
At least I am trying and that is a lot. I succeed more often than I fail but it is an ongoing test. Plus, I extend that effort to feeling compassion for myself so that I don’t beat myself up later, which I will do. How can I allow myself to be THAT person? Why am I such an ugly person around this one individual? I truly want to be the kind of person that comes from love every day, and it is hard. But I am trying and making a huge effort at it.
There is one exercise I can suggest that did help a bit. I took some sheets of paper and I cut them into smallish rectangles. I wrote the names of everyone that I felt anger towards on one side, and then on the other I wrote out what it was that they did that made me feel the way I did towards them. When I was done I read each name then turned the paper over and read what was written there. I read them out loud, because hearing out loud what I thought they did to me (let me stress that-what I thought they did to me) made it seem less somehow. And then, after I went through the whole pile, I began at the beginning again but this time I did something different. I read the person’s name out loud, told them “I forgive you”, and then I tore the paper into little pieces. I went through the whole pile and did that to every person. I acknowledged the feelings of negativity and then I let them go. It did help. It took several times of doing it and some people I still have a hard time dealing with. But I’m working on it. And that is compassion, too.
Shout out in the comments and tell me about your compassion tests. I would love to hear from you.