The holidays of November-December-January always draw me into a deep state of intentionality and reflection. I love the symbols, rituals, and stories of the seasons and various messages. So I spend some time trying to figure out what the last year was about, where I am at, and where I am going. Like a month long personal retreat preparing for New Year's Day and hopefully having some clarity for the coming year. Sometimes in the midst of these efforts, I have come to realize that there are times in our life when we feel that we are in between things. Not really in that place where we once were, but not yet fully into another stage of our life.
The name of this blog is "Open Windows" based on the concept that life continually places in front of us opportunities and sometimes we see them and take advantage of them (or not), and other times we do not even see them. So these windows come and go and part of life's task is to see the windows clearly so we can make informed decisions about what to do with them.
But what about the time we spend in between these windows? When there is no obvious option to take other than to keep doing what we are doing. But at the same time we know life is evolving and some option for change does exist and is just over the next horizon (or two, or three....). It's like a comma or a semicolon has been dropped into our lives. The sentence is going along and then all of a sudden it stops. Not a permanent stop or the end of that sentence, but a pause nonetheless. So what is happening in our lives during these pauses?
I am a big believer that the best/main teacher in our lives is the universe. That the energy of the universe places before us opportunities to grow and learn and that we generally stay in the same spot until we learn the lessons we need in order to move on. If we do not learn that particular lesson then those same lessons keep getting presented us to us over and over and teachers of that particular lesson will continue to surface in our lives until we get it figure out.
So having made some significant transitions over the last few years I have come to realize I am in another comma or pause in my own life. Given that, I have been spending time trying to see clearly what lessons I am to be learning while I am in this moment, with the hope that by learning those lessons I might see more clearly the next window that appears. This is not always an easy thing to decipher and I have found it difficult at times to find clarity on this. We get so caught up in our day to day life that we forget to look for the possible lessons being presented to us or the windows that may be coming.
I believe though that I have found two lessons that for me have required a lot of work. It is probably no coincidence they appear to me during this time of year. These lessons include the gift of kindness and the challenge of judgment. Generally I like to think of myself as a kind person and one who treats others as I would like to be treated. But at the same time I sometimes have little patience for inefficiency, bad manners, and inattentiveness.
For example, you walk into a doctor's office and two receptionists are there. One is helping another incoming patient but the other is just talking with a co-worker. A few seconds or so to wrap it up is fine, but if the non-work related conversation goes on for 2-3 minutes I might find that unprofessional, inefficient, and disrespectful. And my response on occasion might have been to become irritated, to not offer a smile, be a bit curt, acting less than enthused to be there if you know what I mean.
In looking at this it seems this is very self-centered of me and presents an image of myself of over valuing who I am and my needs. What do I gain by my behavior and decision to engage this person with any lack of kindness? How do I know what that person has going on in their lives and the struggles they may be facing? Why is that OK for me to do? What do I gain by it, and maybe more important what do I lose by it (I think probably a lot).
This also made me realize how I have at times have judged others. This happens to me sometimes when I am driving. People stay in the left lane when not passing, do not use turn signal, cut you off, etc. All of these behaviors are pet peeves of mine and while troubling and annoying, none are that big of deal. But as I drive and these thoughts enter my head, I realize I am judging the other driver based often on the assumption that I would not do this or that, so therefore, I must be a "better driver." And then the underlying assumption, if I am honest with myself, is that if I am a better driver then aren't I also simply a better person? But why do I need to judge that person and to then try to make myself feel superior to them? Am I insecure? Do I need to do that to make myself feel important, or better, or what? How does that attitude help me in any way?
So I have been carefully monitoring my kindness and judgment meters of late and found it very interesting. Each time I find myself annoyed with someone and about to be less than fully kind to them I try to check that and then try to be unconditionally kind to the person no matter what (usually minor) grievance they may have committed. Likewise on judgment. About the time I feel myself judging someone for being an inferior driver than me (or whatever it is they did - please fill in the blank) I try to step back and let go of that thought. I try to acknowledge and accept that I make mistakes, I realize people have seen me driving and at times probably felt that way about me, and I release the judgment and offer a blessing to the person. I know I do not need to lift myself up by standing above someone else.
Just one other thought on this. We also must acknowledge that we live in a competitive world. We have goals, we have a vision, we want to succeed, and to succeed we must believe in those goals and vision and ourselves. So at some point we must in our minds believe we can compete and win against others we face in this world if we are to achieve those goals. So it is a fine line of believing in ourselves that we are special, that we are talented, that we can be successful, without categorically judging others and withholding acts of kindness. I will leave that to your own personal balancing act but acknowledge it is at the very least a challenging thing to do.
So being intentional about my levels of kindness and judgment has been very interesting, difficult at times, but mostly helpful. I am not sure what stage I am in, how long this comma will be, but I hope my work on these issues (and others) will prepare me for the next window that comes along so that I will be more fully prepared to pass through (or not if I choose) when it comes.
May you and your family have a most joyous, kind, and blessed holiday season.