Another snow day. I walked my dog Nova first thing in large drifts of snow. She loved the depth of the snow but not the gusts of wind in her face. There was great joy as she leapt like a gazelle into the drift and out again. And then the wind would rise and she would tug me to the door. I found more and more creative ways to keep her mind on other things so she would stay outside. It was a challenge.
I find I do this with myself quite often, know I am about to embark on some activity or experience I partly dread and partly look forward to. I used to deal with this by focusing on the positive, what I wanted to do and try and forget the parts of the experience I was not looking forward to. But that approach has changed. Now I try not to go to where I think this adventure will take me, positive or negative, and just decide I am about to do something, prepare for it with emotional grounding, and then step off the curb to see what happens.
The emotional grounding takes some explaining. I deal with the immediate anxieties so they do not come with me as I step off the curb. I consciously go through the checklist of things that I am worried about and deal with what I can. I do not want the baggage of these worries to colour the day. Having completed or deal with all that I can I am ready to engage the experience with a somewhat open psyche, not upset or overly eagerly expectant (who wants to be let down). I just let the event unfold as it does and take from it what I can.
I find I am doing this more and more, digging in to address the anxieties before I embark on the experience and then calmly stepping into the day. The only downside is that I can get very cranky with the people who don’t follow my strategy and just take their baggage into the day and then expect everyone around them to cope with it. I find this inconsiderate, though as my wife tells me, “not everyone is a freak like you, going to great lengths to figure out how to address each and every anxiety before most of us even wake up!” She has a point.
My ability to do all of this suddenly fails me when I attend a meeting that last more than 90 minutes. Then suddenly all of my coping mechanisms and strategies to relieve anxiety are useless, I am barebones, naked with my crankiness and baggage. I want out! And I will then lean in on anyone who dares push the meeting beyond its expiry date with ridiculous matters that scream “rabbit hole” to me.
As I sit here on the chesterfield watching 70 cm of snow accumulate in my yard, no cars or trucks, I assume all of the usual stressors that cause people to be abrupt, rude, selfish, dramatic, mean, small, jealous, petty, hypocritical, resentful, etc…are absent and therefore they can just sit back and enjoy a good cup of coffee and relax with Zen-like pleasure. But Kim says that is wishful thinking on my part. She says people will always find reasons to be challenging in their behavior regardless of what is on their plate. She says that is because they are human and I am not! Ouch.
I think if we are called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves then looking inside and being reflective about how we interact with our neighbor is not just a speculative exercise but a necessary part of spiritual connection.