Sometimes I worry I’ll never change.
I talk a good game. But I’m often paralyzed by self-doubt, daunted by the knowledge that many of the changes I strive for require breaking habits I’ve cultivated over a lifetime.
For instance, I have an unhealthy preoccupation with “fairness.” When I’m walking and three people abreast approach, I feel a twinge of anger. They’re taking up more sidewalk than is fair.
Earlier this morning, I watched a guy sitting on a bench, outside my Starbucks, smoking. He dropped lit butts at his feet, in a neighborhood filled with puppies, children, and me.
I’ve seen him before. I’ve watched cleaning crews sweep up his mess around him, while he stares into his phone, unbothered.
Why am I angry? Is being inconsiderate the same as “unfair”? I think I equate the two.
In either event, the first thought that popped into my head was, “polite society.”
I came to believe the universe is filled with unwritten laws originating from a single concept, “do unto others…” the foundation of a “polite society.”
I also learned the power of prejudice, specifically, anti-Semitism from my father. My dad possessed a keen radar for subtle slights he considered racially motivated. I unconsciously adopted the same posture.
Ultimately, I think I’ve applied the “Broken Windows” theory to polite society.
Broken Windows theory argues minor crimes, vandals breaking windows in an abandoned building, if ignored, lead to serious crimes. Maybe I look at smoker-guy and sidewalk hogs as “broken windows.”
In Radical Acceptance, my new, favorite book on incorporating Buddhist thinking into a Western existence, author Tara Brach suggests that unless you feel compassion for yourself and others, your journey toward mindfulness will be impeded.
I get that.
Or, I want to get that. How do I find compassion for smoker-guy?
He’s obviously addicted to nicotine. I acknowledge that must be painful.
He drives a late-model Mercedes, and has an iPhone. So he’s not destitute.
Short of having an actual conversation, I have no idea where to look inside myself for compassion. That’s a challenge I have yet to understand.
I have no desire to talk to smoker-guy, to change him. Likewise, there will always be people taking up two parking spots. I cannot change them either.
I can change my reaction to them, a concept simple to write, yet so challenging to accomplish. Especially when my immediate reaction to smoker-guy and sidewalk hogs is righteous indignation.
I guess those moments are opportunities for a mindful pause while repeating my mantra of “respond, don’t react.”
One of the benefits of writing this blog is it helps me understand me. I hadn’t connected Broken Windows to my perspective before I began this entry. So maybe there is hope for me. Maybe I can make change. I just have to give myself a beak first.
Until next time,
Stay in touch. Connect. Comment.
P.S. The title of today’s post is a quotation by Oscar Wilde
P.P.S. A little clip from Annie Hall. Not really related but awesome nonetheless