Sitting in my car today waiting for my dog, Minnie, who is currently undergoing water physio for a bad hip, I surveil the environment around me. The area where her physio is located is not a nice part of the neighborhood. In the brush behind the big box stores, I see lines of tarps and tents...a small village of desperation. Mounds of garbage and garbage bags mark the pathways in and out of the tent village, a metaphor for our shared human shame...the throwing away of our fellow humans.
And you thought this was a blog on joy.
While my heart feels saddened by those who have to reside here, I am also learning that while there is true suffering, there is also true giving. I have been following a group on Facebook called Street Thug Barbers who have made it their mission to offer free haircuts, food, and friendship to those on the street. Their operation exists through donations and hard work by a group of amazing individuals. Anyone who offers dignity to another human is excelling at life in my estimation.
Human dignity is the same for all human beings; when I trample on the dignity of another, I am trampling on my own.
- Pope Francis
It was during these musings that I had the epiphany...as I have before...that I must be annoying to live with. Nothing to do with the topic at hand. It's just the way my mind works.
In the recent present, I have been facing a few individuals near and dear to me who are struggling. One is a dear friend who is going through some personal issues and likes to ask my advice which I am more than delighted to dispense. When she fails to follow through on my advice, I become incensed at her ability to own her life. And yes, I can hear the irony.
One of my children has been struggling. My platitudes to count their blessings and appreciate the little things are met with stone-cold flatness. Truthfully, I become slightly irritated at looking at their morose countenance and just wish they'd follow my advice...then they would be happy, right?!
My spouse comes home with a negative occurrence at work. I struggle between listening and wanting to problem solve. I try hard to listen, but I end up encouraging him to change his perspective. We both leave the exchange feeling unsatisfied.
Now, you're getting a sense of how annoying I am to live with.
What It Boils Down To
My desire to dispense advice and problem solve is a pattern that I am starting to recognize. The truth of the matter is that my need to elevate others is wrapped up in my own need to be elevated. It's most dangerous when our energies are so closely linked that my joy is dependent on their joy. It's a relationship of codependency.
What it manifests as is my inability to hold space for those I love to struggle without diving in to solve their problems for theirs or my sake. Awareness, though, is half the battle. The other half is giving myself the time and space I need to recharge so I can be my source of joy and be their cheerleader wherever they find themselves.
When We Know Better We Try And Do Better
The funny thing is that the road to joy is ridiculously easy. When I can get some time and space out of my head, I understand that all the advice I dispense...well almost all...is valid. It's my timing and the fact that I can talk, but not listen that's the problem...oh, and the fact that it is not my life and not my struggle.
Lucky for me there is usually a do-over. Instead of advising, I am working on encouraging my friend that she already knows what to do, but make no judgments when she doubts herself. It's a journey. I can just keep reminding her that she has always been braver than me and will find her way in this as she has always done. I can support my child by connecting them with the mentors that they are asking for and focus on making sure their basic needs of nutrition and rest, within my capacity, are met. I can be silent when my spouse expresses work frustration and ask before offering advice, all the while remembering he has been one of my greatest sources of joy and wisdom providers and to support him in this life journey is my honor. Oh, and they all figure it out in their way and in their time.
And in that way, perhaps I can be a little less annoying...slightly.
On Another Note
On focusing on things that bring me joy, I had the pleasure of watching two Staffordshire Terriers walk their owners today. I did not miswrite that. They were skipping and delighted with being out in the fresh air on a sunny autumn day and generously brought their owners with them. There is nothing quite so impressive in pure body power, yet, beautiful in coloring as these amazing creatures. These two young ones seemed like mischief-makers. Most of my personal encounters have been with old wise ones. The silvery-gray one ran towards me when they spotted me in a happy manner eager to say hello. I admired their beauty, told them they were gorgeous and went on with my walk. What delightful things always seem to run across my path literally.
He didn't think I was annoying.
People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.
- Isaac Asimov