(If you get the pop culture reference in how I named this "episode", we can definitely be BFFs.)
A few weeks ago, I was in heaven (aka my Hen House) and had a fantastically super-awkward encounter that could only happen to me.
I was hangry and second in line to pay for my Mongolian barbecue. (Yes, my Hen House has Mongolian barbecue. Heaven, I tell you.) The gentleman in front of me was duped by the pricing on the all-you-can-eat salad bar. He had managed to fill a large to-go container full of nearly two pounds of salad bar fixins. Fifteen dollars’ worth. See, the all-you-can-eat price only applies to eat-in salads, not to-go salads.
So while he began to argue and complain that he “could go across the street to a fancy restaurant if he wanted a $15 salad” and the sweet (very young) cashier flushed and fumbled and tried to decide what to do, my delicious stir fry was getting cold. And when he decided he didn’t want the salad and she said she’d have to call a manager to void the salad sale, I did what any other very hungry person would do. I paid for his $15 salad.
And I gritted my teeth in a forced smile while he (and the cashier) gushed about how kind that was, and I hurried home as quickly as I could to eat my noodles before my hunger cost me any more dollars.
The phrase “be careful what you wish for” could not be more apt than when talking about wanting to develop certain character traits. Patience, for example.
I have a fair grasp on the amount of work, commitment, discomfort, and even pain it takes to build physical strength in my body. I wish I could think and hope and will myself to a cute li’l six pack or a finished marathon, but I know that’s ridiculous.
Yet for some reason I believe I can become a kinder, gentler, more patient, humble heart by just willing myself there. No blood, sweat, or tears required.
So I can joke about not really being a people person and wanting to run away to a desert island with just my Smitty and my dogs. I can “find my tribe” (blech) and surround myself with easy people who look like me, think like me, behave like me, and generally don’t ruffle my feathers. I can roll my eyes at how dumb people are and how annoying they can be and how in my way they are. And this level of difficult-human avoidance may lead to some temporary sense of comfort or happiness.
But if I’m here to do my part and push us forward into a kinder, gentler, more patient, humble species, I’d best commit to the hard work it takes to build those muscles within me. And I’d best be honest with myself that it will likely be uncomfortable (or even painful) along the way.
A few years ago, I settled into a long flight with only one book at my disposal. I cracked it open and realized by the third page the author and I disagreed about a very fundamental, essential, integral, tenet of life. I was wont to stop reading. How could I enjoy the book or learn anything from someone whose views were so different (and wrong, obviously) from mine? He was definitely not “my tribe”.
But with nothing else to do for the three airplane hours, I pushed ahead. I enjoyed his intelligence and humor. I came to understand how he arrived at a drastically different world view than my own. I can even admit it made some sense to me. Weird.
This forced experiment shook me a bit. Sent me down a rabbit hole. Could the best route to the person I want to be - patient, humble, curious, compassionate - go straight through an obstacle course of difficult, different-from-me humans? Boo. Sounds like a lot of work.
But it's this work that completes the "Self Trifecta": Self care (sounds lovely)
Self awareness (sounds uncomfortable)
Self work (sounds hard)
It's that third leg that gives the stool a foundation to stand on. It's what takes the first two from self-centered navel gazing to world changing. live giving habits.
And now I see "extra grace required" folks as a personal challenge. A hard core workout for my (figurative) heart.
So while some may be compelled to boast about their new personal best deadlift, I'll be over here bragging about how I've been working so hard, I didn't have to roll my eyes and check my watch when the gal in front of me ordered seven Starbucks drinks that she had to dictate from a text.
Do they give medals for that?