Patience And Compassion (A Revelation)

Last week’s post has been on my mind every day since the ink began to set in my skin.

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I’ve found myself in a quagmire of anxiety with every asshole I’ve encountered. I keep asking the same question. Why does this person deserve compassion? Why does James Eagan Holmes* deserve my compassion? Does Andreas Lubitz* deserve my compassion? The answer isn’t important, I’ve been asking the wrong question. To question who is deserving (of anything-not to mention the compassion from some dude in Oakland) is arrogant folly. I learned this lesson when I almost lost my temper behind the wheel. Oakland/San Francisco must be in a two-way tie for jay walking capital of the U.S., if anyone were keeping track of that sort of thing. I’ve ranted about the subject before. One of the regular habits of these jackasses is to run out in the middle of the street and slow to a walk while still in front of your car. Good times, so fun! Well, a couple did this to me on Friday morning. While the young lady kept running, the dude behind her strolled the entire width of the busy street. Even as several cars screeched to a halt, he never picked up the pace even after I slammed on my brakes and lost a bit of rubber to keep from ending his life. As I called him all sorts of muthafuckas from behind the wheel, he just looked at me. He didn’t flip me off (that’s common for jaywalkers in the Bay Area), he didn’t say a word, and he didn’t raise an eyebrow. He just looked in my eyes as he kept his stroll going and it was clear that he gave not a fuck. That left me with two choices. 1.) Shift to 1st, cook some rubber, and mow him down in the middle of the street at 10:30 in the morning. (“All the years if I pull this trigger!”) 2. ) Breathe deeply, stay cool, recognize he wasn’t worth my anger, and just keep it moving. I chose door number 2. I kept thinking about that look on his face. He was truly indifferent about the fact that he was endangering his life and the lives of drivers that could have ended up colliding because of him. I took a lesson from that experience. While I’m sitting round wondering how to have patience and compassion for all, many people are not expecting nor craving my patience or compassion. The jaywalking, Mr. DGAF‘s look implied that he was unconcerned with my level of patience or compassion for him. He didn’t desire/need either from me. That’s the lesson I took from that experience.

It’s worth mentioning… I hate it when people tell a story about a look someone gave them that involves projection of their personal issues when the person could have just had a booger rubbing against their nostril. This isn’t that. I’m not leaping to an assumption of what Mr. DGAF thought based on his look. Based on his actions (did I mention that the actual crosswalk was about 100 feet away) and a look that said nothing, he didn’t give a fuck. That can be verified by anyone that saw the incident. I’m not just telling you how his look made me feel.

What does that mean for my pledge to have patience and compassion for all? The most memorable lesson that I learned from Sesame Street was to tackle one task at a time. My last few weekends have been good ones because I’ve been able to balance productivity (chores) with creativity (dance) and social networking (you know the real kind, in people’s faces). There was an episode wherein some furry creature (Elmo?) was frustrated by the enormous stack of homework in front of him. Some human (Gordon?) came along and pushed all of the books off screen and placed one of the books in front of the furry dude. The lesson was to focus on one element of a huge undertaking before allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the weight of the total endeavor. Well, with the help of Mr. DGAF’s lesson I’ve decided to focus on one element of my pledge before doing it all. It’s impossible to hug the entire world at once. I’ve decided to start with the people within arm’s length. There are plenty of people that have and will come to me in need of my patience and compassion. I will do my best to give it to them. Over time, I’ll be able to give patience and compassion to those that haven’t requested it, to the DGAFs of the world. But, that’s further on up the road on a very long journey.

*Feel free to perform your own searches on the people mentioned above. I won’t add to their notoriety by adding a link to this post.

Anger Management or What A Difference An Attitude Makes

Did I ever tell you the story about how I tried to kill my brother? I was in high school when my brother returned home from Operation: Desert Storm. He had changed and he was the tougher, angrier, (more) verbally abusive version of his former self. We were still happy to have him home and alive. The problem with having an older brother that had an axe to grind was the fact that I had my own short-fused temper. It was only a matter of time before there was conflict. One night, we were in the basement watching Arsenio Hall, Prince was performing that night. My brother had called me more insulting names than I care to remember during the course of that particular day. My cup was full and I had taken all I could take. As he sat in front of the TV, I stood between him and the kitchen. He jabbed a finger towards the kitchen as he commanded me to get him a knife so that he could cut his food. “Fuck you, get it yourself!” was my response as my chest heaved with frustrated breath. He walked past me and gave me a shoulder check into the pool table. I was furious! On his way back from the kitchen, with a knife in hand, he bumped me a second time and everything just kind of went hazy. When I could see straight again, his face was bleeding and I’d realized what I had done. Apparently, I lunged at his back and pushed him into the entertainment center. I wanted to kill him. I pushed hard enough in hopes that he would ram his head into the cement wall on the other side of the entertainment center. There was a loud crash! He turned around and discovered the blood dripping from his cheek. When I saw the blood, I came to my senses and all of the repercussions came into full view. I had drawn first blood on the mighty Marine home from the war. “Oh, shit!” I muttered as I took off in a sprint up the stairs and out of the front door. My brother gave chase and caught me half way down the block. He put me in a sleeper hold and I blacked out. I woke up covered in mud, snow, and a bit of his blood. I walked back into the house not longer after he had returned. My mom cleaned me off and explained to me the importance of keeping my temper in check. She was upstairs while the whole shit went down, but momma knows who started it and who escalated it. Mommas just know. While these weren’t her exact words, I remember her message being “Detroit isn’t the place to have that sort of temper! People have gotten killed for less.” I heard her message and that was the first time I recognized my anger as a problem.

Fast forward seven years, I had moved away from Detroit and was living in Atlanta when I made a formal proclamation and promise to myself to let go of my anger. My lover at the time was a therapist and she suggested a few books on anger management. I read the books and completed the self-help exercises at the end of each chapter. I decided to get control of my anger on my own. I was raised in a culture that viewed therapy as a sign of weakness. My mother didn’t believe that, she worked in a psychiatric hospital and taught me at a young age that some people need help and those are the people that need our compassion. Nevertheless, I didn’t view my anger issues as life-threatening. The danger that my anger issues posed were to make me into an asshole. I didn’t (and still don’t) want to be that guy. So, I put myself through anger management and made some changes in my life to make sure that I didn’t become a toxic person with nothing to contribute to society.

Over the last few years, I take it as the highest compliment when people (who know me) refer to me as “chill” or “calm”. I would not have earned such adjectives 15 years ago. Some people that don’t really know me still say things like, “You hate everything!” (Not so, I’m just unafraid to disagree and call something bullshit. I have opinions about stupid shit. Have you read my blog? Yes, I use the H-word too often. When people suggest that, I take it as a reminder to equally share my passionate opinions about things that I love.) Another phrase I hear is, “You’re intense.” (I’ll be that. But, what’s wrong with moving forward with purpose in the name of your passions, especially if I endeavor to do so without doing harm to others? Nothing. I’ve noticed that no other “intense” people ever call me intense. Only those that are the antithesis of intense give me such a label. If you’re that person, what are you saying about yourself? Do you want to be known as “bland”?) The phrase that I only hear from certain people is, “You’re intimidating!” (Am I intimidating you or could you be a racist? Truth bomb: 100% of the people that have ever called me intimidating have been white. I’ve heard people call me this for 20 years. Since I first bulked up from weightlifting. People that know me on a personal level never call me intimidating. My friends know that I’m a dork. People should hold themselves accountable for their own perceptions. I can respect, “I find you intimidating” much more than “YOU are intimidating.” If you could read my mind, you’d know that I’m not thinking about you as you cross the street to avoid me. Yes, that happens… in 2015.)

Back when I was on Facebook, stupid people would find themselves disappointed when I didn’t have the same attitude in real life as I did in my Facebook status updates. “You’re nothing like you are on Facebook!” No shit, dumb ass! Social media (and even this blog) is a small window into my life. Because of my aforementioned anger issues (and the great many more stories that are too lengthy for this post), I make it a point to keep a positive fucking attitude. My attitude makes all of the difference. I compare anger issues with addiction. Instead of narcotics or alcohol, my vice is anger and I make an effort on a daily basis to leave the house and face the world with the right mind and an attitude that will keep me on the path to my goals. A friend honored me by asking for my help with his efforts to control his anger. I’m not a therapist. But, I did give him some books (“The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth” both by Eckhart Tolle) to read and four reminders that hopefully helped. Those reminders may also help anyone reading this post with anger issues.

1.) Your ego, and the need to be right, drives the majority of conflict. The argument is over and you think of the perfect comeback to that one insult. But, the time has past. Does that sting a little bit? That’s your ego talking. Your ego wants to be fed a constant diet of “rightness”. Internal dialogue between your peace of mind and your ego should place your peace of mind in a dominant position. Suppress your ego and the need to be right. Dissolve the need to dominate conversations and perpetuate general fuckery. Be cool. Be calm.

2.) How does it affect you? Take out a sheet of paper and make three columns. Number the first column 1-5. Make a list of five things that other people do that annoy you. In the second column, list why it annoys you. In the third column, list how it changes your life. If it doesn’t change your life, don’t let it annoy you. Who gives a fuck how she’s dressed? Let it go! Let go of big anger by letting go of petty annoyances.

3.) Be prepared with a back up plan. Some argue that a back plan is planning to fail. Would you say that to a person with a second parachute? Of course not. Having a back up plan will keep you from having a reason to lose your temper. If you show up to perform to a piece of music and due to some error beyond your control the venue doesn’t have your music ready to play, having a backup plan (your music on a CD or on your phone) is a good idea. Do you have a backup plan if you get locked out of your car? Would it derail your entire day if that happened? Well, you might want to get that system in place. Being prepared for the unexpected may seem impossible. Listen to the mistakes that others make, learn from them and make sure that you have a backup for everything (within reason). Don’t turn backup plans into a source of anxiety. Sometimes you just can’t prepare for shit. But, if you are prepared it will keep you from losing your shit. Do you have an extra set of clothes in the trunk of your car? Do you have a $20/$50/$100 bill stashed somewhere in your shoe when you go for a run? If you don’t have your phone (because it gets stolen), you injure yourself, and you’re 12 miles from home, what are you going to do? Be pissed or get home with your backup plan?

4.) Move forward with purpose, deflecting drama and ridding your life of negative people. Allow your daily mantra to be, “keep it moving”. People will try to spread their personal drama around like a drunken frat boy that misses the urinal. Avoid it, move forward. (To those of you in customer service positions: If a customer makes polite small talk and asks how you are doing, don’t tell them things like, “My shift is almost over!” or anything to that effect. It’s like telling the customer that you’re unhappy in your job and that’s a fucking drag.) The next time you see people standing around talking shit, keep it moving. If you’re in such a conversation, ask yourself, “how is this adding value to my life?” If it isn’t, leave. Move forward with purpose. I’ll leave you with these two African proverbs about chatter.

“He who will chatter with you, will chatter of you.”
“A chattering bird builds no nest.”

Enjoy your happiness, friends! Real Talk: No one can take happiness away. Only you can give it away.