Don't misunderstand. I know I am good person and I have a lot of positive traits. But, I also know I am too much of a miser. I'm too quick to criticize. I can be so cynical and hypocritical. I am too frequently selfish or self-involved. I fight against these tendencies because I strive to be a better, kinder, more honest, sympathetic, and generous person than my base animal nature would have me be.
Some days I do well. Some days I fall on my face spectacularly. Recently I had back-to-back experiences in which I quite disappointed myself one day and redeemed myself the next.
There is always going to be something to moan about (rainy days, bad restaurant service, aches and pains, misplaced belongings, dental procedures), but there is always so much more to be grateful for (clean water, love, family, cats, sunshine, flowers, full bellies, friendship, tasty beers, good books, a meaningful job, a nice home, a stupendous lifemate, and another day to live this life I love).
This sprung into my mind yesterday when I pulled up Facebook Messenger to complain to my besties about a woman who'd brought her increasingly unhappy toddler to the library and sat near my office for hours. I realized my instinct was to find someone to complain to about it--about how put upon I was by the distraction and noise.
But, I checked myself. I closed the Messenger app.
(I'm going to make up names here for clarity.)
I observed the young mother. Kate sighed heavily and rubbed her forehead with strain as she tried to placate little Mary with snacks and videos before turning back to type at her computer. Still Mary cried and cried, expressing her discontent at being cooped up in the library for hours. Kate took Mary outside for a short walk in the stroller. She tried to encourage nap time by pushing Mary back and forth in her stroller with a foot as she typed. Mary was not having it though. She was up and down and running all about the library with Kate repeatedly jumping up from her computer to give chase and bring Mary back to her desk. Kate was typing a long document with a serious expression on her face. She looked tired and sweaty and absolutely frazzled.
I realized that rather than complain I could try and be helpful. I drummed up a can of Play-Doh and some crayons and asked Kate if I could offer them to Mary. Kate was so grateful for the new distractions....not that they really helped all that much, but Kate's appreciation and gratitude still made it worth the effort.
Mary toddled into my office a while later (for the seventh time) and when Kate chased after her she apologized and we started to talk. The young woman unloaded a little bit explaining that she'd just gotten notified her ex had filed new documents relating to their parenting plan and she had to file her reply with the court by Friday, but was going to be out of town so she only had the one day to work on it and it was so important and she was so worried and....on and on. Kate then thanked me for listening and went back to writing, scanning, and updating her documents.
And I thought: Well, I am sure glad I didn't complain to my friends. My day/life is going so easy compared to all that. That poor woman has enough weighing her down without me griping about noise when she's doing the best she can. What did it matter in the grand scheme of things? And what good would complaining have done? I felt so light. It was incredible, like I was actually winning the battle. It was surreal how different I felt about the whole situation when I looked outside myself first. It reminded me of the Arbinger training Matt's taken and that line my sister once told me about how it is never too late to be the person you aspire to be.
I'm sure I'll keep falling on my face. Sticking my foot in my mouth. Regretting and overthinking the careless things I say or do. I am such a fallible human. But, each day is a new day to try again. How remarkable to think I've got so many chances to grow!