Archives for posts with tag: be nice

I’m sipping coffee on a lazy Monday – feels luxurious, and I’m very much aware that in just a couple weeks my Mondays will once again be the start of the work week. I am thinking about life and relationships, and how to enjoy the best possible experiences day-to-day, moment-to-moment, event-by-event. This? This “now” right here? It’s “my time”; I’ve accepted a job offer. Put things around the house in order with the help of my Traveling Partner. Helped him with things in the shop. I am now enjoying some unfettered leisure time, and the presence of a house guest (my partner’s adult son). It’s a good time to reflect on what precisely makes the very best experiences in life…

…and then do those verbs…

I already know quality of life is not “a money thing”, because there are certainly plenty of privileged or affluent people in public spaces being fucking miserable, or miserable to be around. So… okay. Not about the money (although having a little goes a long way to purchasing nice-to-have goods and services!). I think about my time on the coast. The hotel wasn’t fancy – just a seaside hotel; a little costly considering the amenities, but a great location and an ocean view are among those “nice-to-have” items. The room was a bit old. A bit “tired”. The in-room coffee machine did not work. The lobby was clean but not particularly well-appointed (it wasn’t bad, either, just ordinary). Still – I loved my time there and I am eager to go back. Why? What made last week’s coastal adventure time so exceptional? I think it comes down to something really basic and simple and, amusingly, free if one cares to have some. People were nice. That’s it. People were nice. Why were so many people so pleasant and considerate? (I think that’s how I personally define “nice” – pleasant and considerate.) I suspect because I was being nice, myself.

I greeted the receptionist at the hotel as a person, with respect and kindness, and with no expectation of being treated better than anyone else, no insistence, no urgency, no impatience. She was clearly quite busy. In return for the small investment of being nice, I was able to get a last minute room for the night, at a very reasonable rate, and even got checked-in crazy early which let me enjoy the day so thoroughly with great convenience.

I greeted the domestic staff when I approached my room, and then on my way out to grab my stuff from the car I made a point of expressing my appreciation for the obvious care they had taken to ensure the room was clean and ready for a new guest. In return, they smiled each time they saw me (for the rest of my stay) and were pleasant and pro-actively helpful – one of them even made a point to take her cigarette break out near the beach, where I was sitting, taking time to show me where the high tide would be, so if I wanted to come out to the beach in the moonlight, I would not be at risk of drowning. This after just a few words about looking forward to taking pictures while I enjoyed my stay and asking how her day is going, earlier.

I was pleasant and patient with the hard working waitstaff at various eateries. In return? I got great service, with a smile.

Simple things. Yes, yes, I know – these folks are working, and their job is to provide customer service. That isn’t a guarantee or requirement that they do so pleasantly, patiently, helpfully, or kindly, and I know that if someone treats me in an unpleasant, inconsiderate, or unkind way I know I am personally less likely to deliver my best, or to be my most pleasant and “nice”. Just being real. So much of life we get back from our experiences what we bring to them. If we’re hateful, other people seem so as well. If we’re rude, other people are more likely to be rude right back.

Be nice. Damn. It’s not that hard. (Why should you have to be? You don’t. I’m just saying, you may get better results from your relationships. It’s worth a thought.)

Now, before there’s howling from the devil’s chorus on this, I’ll just say that I’m not suggesting being a doormat, or allowing other people to tromp all over your explicitly-set boundaries, or undermining your own emotional wellness by being a “people pleaser”. Not at all. I’m just saying… be nice. Practice Wheaton’s Law. Assume positive intent. Don’t take shit personally. Be kind. Be welcoming and approachable, generally. Treat other people well (and yeah, treat yourself well, also).

I’m eager to get back to the coast, at that same pleasant seaside hotel near that very nice coffee shop with the cool baristas and great mochas. Eager to enjoy a meal at that restaurant with the very pleasant and efficient waitstaff and great food. Eager to walk the beach and talk to those very nice folks fishing about their catch and the weather.

Now? I’m eager to begin again.

We’ve all got a story (or stories) to tell, haven’t we? (It’s a rhetorical question. We do.) So often, it also feels as if “no one is listening” – even if they just fucking asked for a bedtime story. LOL Being human sometimes seems needlessly complicated.

My Traveling Partner stopped into the studio with chocolates and a smile. I’d just finished with a phone call he’d earlier expressed interest about, wanting to know the outcome. So… okay… I start to share, but the timing is a poor fit – he’s livestreaming, and needs to get back to that rather promptly. I’m invited to come along to where he’s sitting, to share any relevant (to his experience) information. Cool. Awesome – I do that. Only… I’ve misread the moment and begin to go down the path of “sharing my story”, instead of simply “answering his question”. Those are rather different things, in any conversation. 🙂 I get it wrong a lot, and I work on it often. Story-telling is about a carefully crafted narrative with a “larger purpose” (sometimes educational, sometimes entertainment, sometimes something else) than just answering a simple question. Stories have meaning and context and plot and are about more than one question, one answer. He sets a clear boundary in the moment; he’s not available for a story right then, and recognizing that is already a win for me. 🙂 I answer the simple question and walk away, and although I still needed to deal with my momentary hurt feelings (no one likes rejection, and being shut down pretty much reliably feels like rejection, regardless of the intent), the interaction felt like a “win”, generally.

I get over my emotional moment pretty quickly. Realistically, his idea of an interesting story and mine are quite different, anyway, and I too-often overwhelm him with narrative details that are neither useful nor actually interesting to him. Better communication skills are still something I work on – a lot. Every bit of progress I make is useful in all my relationships (personal or professional).

I turn my head left, to my other monitor. Another sort of “carefully crafted narrative” is unfolding there, and I watch the video as it does. The work day is already over. I think about the afternoon ahead. Other moments. Other stories to tell. More opportunities to practice skillful communication, and more chances to be the person I most want to be. It’s a journey. I take a moment to think about the many miles I’ve walked on many trails… and the stories I could tell. They don’t all need telling. They don’t all have an audience, if they do. 🙂 Figuring out the difference is one more thing to practice.

Yesterday I found myself mired in an unexpectedly contentious moment with my Traveling Partner. Life in the Time of Pandemic takes its toll on us all, I suppose. Clear communication and skillful expectation and boundary setting are sometimes more challenging for me than I’d like. Living and loving well can be fraught with challenging circumstances. My results vary. I’m fortunate I can retreat to my studio and take a bit of time and distance to care for myself, and restore my sense of perspective, often through writing, sometimes through study or creative endeavors, sometimes meditation is enough. Yesterday evening was a bit strange in an unexpectedly helpful way; I used my words.

Wait though, I mean… I still retreated to my studio to take care of myself, emotionally, and sort myself out. It wasn’t about skillfully using my words live, real-time; I used them long ago, at some other point, and happened upon them on my way to opening a manuscript I am working on, expecting to spend some time writing. No kidding. I had written myself a note, at some point in the past. I happened upon it by chance (which sort of suggests I did a shitty job of putting it where I could easily find it, but this is not about that).

The note I wrote to myself has the title “What about when it feels like nothing really matters?“, which suggests I wrote it in a moment of despair, frustration, and futility, and great emotional pain. Out of curiosity, and feeling cross with myself, I opened it, and began reading;

So, okay. Right now is hard. Breathe. Sit upright. Breathe again. Let this painful, personal, very subjective moment, right here, this one, let it go. 

…Just… let it go. 

You’ve got this. Moments are brief. Temporary. Colored by emotion. Rationalized by a thin veneer of what feels like reason – and often isn’t that at all. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. 

Sometimes, and this may be unavoidable, you won’t feel heard. I’m telling you – from me to you (also me), that this is a thing and maybe always will be. Don’t join the queue of people who aren’t hearing you; listen. Give yourself that moment. Forgive yourself that instance of reactivity. Let that go, too. I’m not saying this is an easy thing, just that, with practice, and consideration, and presence, it is a thing that can be done. You can be heard by one human being who is literally “always there” as much as any one human being can be; yourself. So… do that. 

Start with a body scan. How does your body feel right now? Are you tired? Hungry? Cold? Hot? Thirsty? In pain? Be present and aware of your own physical experience. 

Assess your emotional experience. What are you feeling right now? Emotions and sensations are associated with words. They are not the words. They are experiences. Subjective. Tied to our personal dictionary. Informed by our personal understanding of the world – however flawed. Our perspective on our experience belongs to us – it’s yours. Fix it if it is broken. Accept it if it is an accurate reflection of your understanding of reality. Cut yourself some slack about being so human. 

Now, cut that other person some slack, too. They are every bit as human. Their emotional experience is every bit as valid – and also every bit as wholly subjective, and flawed. Doesn’t matter; it belongs to them. It is their context. Their narrative. Likes yours is for you. You won’t always find a match. Reach past that. Be compassionate. Be kind. Be understanding. Be those things for yourself, from your own perspective, and then also be that for them – aware that their perspective differs, and still able to embrace their humanity as fundamentally more important than this perceived difference. 

Rejection hurts. Conflict is uncomfortable. We want what we want, and often react to not getting that by lashing out in a hurtful way – which we are prone to justifying and rendering somehow righteous, by running that shit through our personal narrative, tidying it up, and making excuses for who we are. We’re not so right. We’re not all wrong. We can’t be “fixed” because we’re not, in fact, broken – we’re human. You are human. We each are. Seeking peace and nurturing, but finding demands, or rejection, or diminishment, or lost agency, or disappointment, or hurt feelings… all that sucks so very much – but it doesn’t have to define you, yourself. It’s just a moment. Let that shit go. 

Re-frame the experience. Assume positive intent (particularly if this “moment” develops within the context of a loving relationship). If you look again, with the certainty that all involved are authentically invested in the well-being of the individuals, and the relationships, does it still look the same? 

Shit sucks though. It’s unpleasant. It can feel overwhelming to feel so insignificant. To be unable to voice your experience in the face of the Other. Breathe anyway. Exhale in spite of it. Allow yourself to exert your agency by relaxing, and letting go of small shit. Specifically avoid lashing out. God damn, that can matter so much! Breathe. Listen. Exhale. Relax.

At the end of it, I was in a different place than when I began. It wasn’t so hard to reconnect, to begin again, to go past that moment and on to some other. The evening ended well. My perspective on the entire day changed. It was helpful. 🙂

Finding that right balance between joyful connected intimacy, and the frank realer-than-real truths of living life together 24/7, has its challenging moments. That’s okay, too. It’s an opportunity to do the work of growth and to explore more depth in this relationship. Nothing about that suggests a comfortable process. There doesn’t seem to be any ill-intention to it – just humans being human. We’re each having our own experience.

…Look at that… Already time to begin again.

So… okay, we’re all human beings. This “social distancing” in a climate of anxiety about wellness, disease, economic downfall, shortages, and human mortality is draining, and tests my patience. (Yours, too, I bet!) Yesterday was punctuated with a bit of snarling, a handful of cross tears, some frustrated moments… Yes, it’s hard sometimes. I sip my coffee feeling fortunate, in spite of that; it could be much worse.

I take some time to watch fish swim.

Gratitude, perspective, sufficiency, and basic mindfulness are all great tools for getting me through stressful times. They do each require that I take that step… sometimes it’s “a step back” to gain perspective, or a pause for gratitude. Sometimes it is a step forward, and a considered reflective reminder that “sufficiency” is enough. (Omg, I can’t help giggling, it’s one of my favorite little aphorisms that is also a tautology.) Sometimes, it’s just a matter of moving from one moment to another, to sit down and seek yet another moment, of stillness, of breath, and then beginning again.

You know what it isn’t, though? It isn’t “easy”. These are not easy times, and I often feel “tested”. I have some coping practices that seem effective day-to-day, but I persist in being quite human, nonetheless, and sometimes that is complicated by sharing space with another human being. We are in this very much together, and somehow still also very much having our own experience, even in these close quarters.

He games… I watch fish swim. We help each other out with projects. We tackle projects on our own. We take turns choosing video content. We both interface with the world using our phones. We connect. We interact. We take a moment for ourselves alone. No surprises here; we’re enduring the challenges with the rest of the world. Similar frustrations. Shared difficulties. Common experiences among friends and neighbors and communities and nations afar… we’re all in this together. It’s gotten very “real”, though, hasn’t it?

I have another sip of my coffee, I pause for a moment of conversation with my partner. I look at the fish, swimming in the new tank next to my desk. I check the time; the moment feels timeless, unlimited, and not anchored to any calendar events. How will I know when to begin again? lol

…I guess when I finish this coffee. 🙂