Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Tables Turned

If you look back through my essays, you will find a common theme. I write a lot on love and peace and respect for others. I write a good deal on tolerance and patience, accepting people where they are, accepting others as not like you. I want you, too, to love yourself enough to love those others. I want you to open your arms and welcome them as different, but the same. I want you to acknowledge the space between you while doing your best to close the gap. I want you to smile and give and accept and embrace. What you need to know is this. While I encourage YOU to do all of this, and expect that you will, I am not so good at listening myself. I am not so good at practicing tolerance and patience and love and peace.

I am good at all of that, yes, as long as you like me, say nice things about me, talk me up to your friends, and think my ideas are just as the world should be. That unconditional love thing? Sure, I can love you unconditionally, as long as you nod your head, give me a hearty yes ma’am, and go along with whatever my idea of the moment happens to be. I am well aware of the phrase “My way or the highway.” In MY world, however, it’s “My way.” There IS no highway. You either agree with me, or you will EVENTUALLY agree with me. That is just how I am.

I recently deleted a friend because he disagreed with me, because he did not throw flowers at my feet and acknowledge me as the Buddha walking on earth. And to think it was I who thought I was practicing tolerance.

I fling my sarcastic wit on the incredibly personal habits of random strangers without remorse. I will crack jokes on clothes, crass acts, and, yes, ass cracks without so much as a look back. That hot guy flicking tooth gunk as he flosses with that giant flosser thingie in the car beside me? I’ve got a comment on that. I’ve got a REALLY good comment on that. The hunky construction worker trying to hide the fact that he just can’t get that booger? I’m penning words as he picks. The lady in the plus-size slacks putting her very personal parts in my face as she bends from the hip to pick up that pencil she dropped? There’s an essay in that. There’s one hilarious essay in that. I can only hope that none of these individuals are writers themselves as I, in turn, reveal to them a little bra strap straightening, wedgie picking, or my signature move, tripping on absolutely nothing.

This is the thing. If I surround myself with only those like me, I have no one from whom to learn, no one from whom to stretch my own views, no one to cause me to question, to look deeper, to reconsider or confirm. I have no one to convert. The best lessons in my life have come from the most unlikely places. It was, in fact, an arrogant, self-righteous narcissist who taught me the true power of kindness and wholehearted compassion. I learned the value education from a high school dropout who shared my life for thirty years. And the best exercise ever in confirming my faith came through the words of a self-proclaimed atheist wannabe. How dull I would be if these others had not crossed my path, if I had not allowed them a special place inside my soul.

At some point in the writing process, the writer takes a step back. She places pen on table and looks at her work from the perspective of reader. I am guessing now would be a good time to do this. Sometimes, I think, I am too close to the words to hear my own voice. Sometimes I am too comfortable up here on my soapbox. There is such a nice view and such a feeling of power. It is intoxicating to no end. I feel, though, I need to kick it aside, humble myself, and sit my glasses on top of my head so that I might see my own work, get my reading eyes ready. I need to hear the message, not just the words. I need to grab onto that theme of love and peace and tolerance and respect that I so often preach. I need to grab onto that, and I need to practice that which I write.

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