[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
the ripple effect
lately there have been some discussions amongst my friends about my compulsion to always do the “right” thing. i’m aware of my compulsion. heck, i even included it in my list of 100 things about me. it came up during a conversation with my brand-new therapist last week, and we had an interesting discussion about it.
“i tried to treat him with as much kindness as i knew how. i tried very hard to always treat him with dignity. and i tried really hard to respect the commitment we made to one another.”
“what do you mean why?”
“well, after listening to some of the behavior he exhibited in the relationship, i was just wondering why you think you continued to…well, to take the high road for lack of a better expression. i think that a lot of people wouldn’t have. a lot of people in your position would have acted with vengeance. or anger.”
“well, i did act out of anger at times. i’m only human. but i hated it afterward. are you saying i shouldn’t have taken the high road?”
“no, not at all. i just don’t see it very often, and i was curious as to whether or not you’d given any thought as to how you maintained that path during some very ugly times.”
truth is, i hadn’t.
i’ve had my share of “ugly times.” some pretty trivial. others a bit more trying than average. but, after talking with her, i looked back over my life and realized that i have, with a handful of exceptions, taken the high road.
i remember when my ex-husband left our marriage. he had been gone from the house for only a few days when i came home from work to discover that he had been there in my absence. he had removed pretty much all of the material possessions from the house. he was a police officer, and i later learned that he had come to the house in the middle of the day, in uniform, along with a group of his police officer friends, also in uniform. i mean, who's going to call the cops on the cops? at any rate, they emptied the house. bed linens. dishes. big screen television. tools. even the lawnmower, despite the fact that he had moved into a second floor apartment, with no lawn at all.
my girlfriends plotted revenge. it was all within the realm of possibility. schemes to ruin his credit. numerous ways to make his car not run. even just simple ways to embarrass him in front of his family. but, although i did fantasize about making his life as difficult as he had made mine, i never followed through. not even on the relatively harmless plots.
i remember explaining to my best friend and chief conspirator.
“yes, i am angry. yes, i am hurt. yes, i am scared to death. but, here’s the thing: years from now, when all of this is a distant memory, i want to be able to look back and say that i was the best person i knew how to be. that i never stooped. i never acted in such a way as to have to feel embarrassed by what i did. one day, i honestly believe he will look back and feel shame. he has treated me unfairly. let him be the one who has to live with that. let him be the one whose conscience bothers him. it will not be me.”
“so…no sugar in the gas tank?”
“no. as much as i’d love it, no sugar in the gas tank.”
i am the girl who waves to you when you let me into traffic. i am the girl who thanks the fast food worker and tells them to have a nice day. i am the girl who compliments the woman on the metro on her scarf.
why? because it’s the right thing to do. because we are all human. because, i have always believed that it makes a difference.
i used to think of this as a ripple effect. like pitching a small stone out onto still water. that my small acts of kindness and humanity – my compliments, my thanks – would inspire others to act in kind. you know, sort of like that volkswagen commercial where the chick sees the volkswagen and smiles, and then she smiles at the guy on the street, and then he smiles and helps someone who dropped something…like that. like i’m the volkswagen when i do little niceties.
but, as i thought about this, looking for the answer to my therapist’s question, i see that the ripple effect has been something entirely different. the ripple effect has been in my own life. my own actions.
these small acts of kindness, this effort to treat each human being with dignity and respect, taking advantage of even the smallest interaction as a way to “practice” the art of being nice…these things have been like a passbook savings account. little deposits. saving for a rainy day.
and, when the rainy days have come, i see now that the dividends have been great. it feels good to look back on my life and see that, when the storms came, when it came down to it, i didn’t falter. i didn’t stoop.
by trying every day in ways both large and small to do the “right” thing, i feel as though i’ve practiced for the important things. the hard things. it’s now my habit to do the “right” thing.
living in a city, it’s hard to keep making deposits. no one waves when you let them into traffic. the fast food worker has already slammed the drive-thru window in my face before “thank you” has left my lips. the woman on the metro looks at me like i’m going to ask her for money. no one smiles at anyone. no one says “excuse me.”
maybe i'm nuts. maybe i'm just a doormat. but, i don't think that's what it is. i think i might actually be onto something. so, i’ll keep on making those deposits. because you never know when it’s going to rain.
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]