An Exercise in Becoming a Nicer Person

I have a confession. Sometimes I’m a real bitch to the people I love. Yes, I know we all have our days. But sometimes I can feel the vitriol pouring out of my mouth and I let myself ride on a wave of its power, feeling both awful and good at the same time. It’s probably a sign that I have some things I need to deal with, issues that need talked out with a therapist, that maybe I shouldn’t be sharing on a public blog…but I share again in the hopes of relating to others that have experienced the same things, felt the same feelings.

These moments usually hit me when the world goes a shade grayer and my energy and sense of purpose feel diffuse and restless. When this happens, it’s like my passion reroutes and finds a new and destructive outlet through which to release itself. The things that annoy me, that I don’t like, become magnified and MUST be called out and made to feel stupid. It’s not fair, especially when the things that annoy me are another human. It’s something I’m working on. Just being nicer. It feels pathetic that I need to type this out, but in this day and age, in this year 2017, maybe we would all do well to reflect on some ways we can become nicer humans.

Why? Because we contain multitudes, as the quote goes. We all have many different facets and sides of ourselves, some transcendent and some downright ugly, and it’s much easier to let the reactive, reductive sides take control, sitting back and watching as they drown out the rest in a blaze of fury. This is why we need reminders and tools to slow down and give our more capacious qualities the chance to breathe, to spread out and take shape.

So here goes, some ideas for how to be kinder, gentler and a little more of the ideal self we hold center:

1. Look at the beautiful things around you. Like now, right now. Maybe you have on a pretty sweater or are sitting on a luscious velvet chair. See them. Appreciate their beauty and purpose. Feel that velvet with your hands and be grateful there’s a structure holding your tush in the air.

2. Do something to make someone else happy. Duh. We already knew this one right? But it feels so good! So go on and take out that trash that’s on the verge of overflowing; don’t wait for your roommate to do it, buy your momma dinner or write your friend a letter. Do it, just because. Later you’ll feel the warmth that comes from making someone else feel cared for and thought of.

3. Practice patience. Now, for me, this is the key that unlocks all others. I think many of my unwarranted bitchy qualities stem from a simple lack of patience. Is someone’s story boring? Spit it out already. Is the printer not working? Better bite someone’s head off. Did I just trip on the sidewalk? Let’s let it know who’s boss. The reasons are varied and many, but, for me, my eagerness to get things done, my impulse to just do it has gone too far. In a culture obsessed with productivity, I think many of us let it get in the way of our ease and warmth. It stilts us, makes us more uptight (even if we were never super relaxed to begin with..). So how do we acquire more patience? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. But I think it starts by just really really trying to focus our energy. By listening to your loved one’s dull story instead of tuning out halfway through (and maybe you’ll discover it’s not all that dull in the first place!), by holding your tongue before cursing the printer and it’s mother, by taking a goddamn breath and letting it out. That’s the spirit. Repeat and pray it gets easier over time (even without personal experience, I know it will).

4. Embrace self-love. It seems counterintuitive since self-centeredness and narcissism is probably partially what got us into this mess. But last but not least is to practice some mother freakin’ self love and care. And not the commercial, treat yo’ self variety (although I’m all about that) but the kind that is nebulous to describe and even more elusive to feel: the real kind. The kind that is removed from the ego and unconcerned with looks. The kind where you accept those shitty sides of yourself that get you into trouble and swallow down the hard pieces that make you feel like a failure. By not trying to change or justify or quantify what happened but by living with it and hoping that some amount of insight can be eeked out of it. By taking a good long look at yourself and scooping out some space deep down to be okay with what you see.

Now maybe all of this was an exercise in purging my conscience. But I think it’s also true that when we purge we often discover some golden kernels of truth that come out with the bullshit. Things that got lodged within us and didn’t want to come to the surface. Things we need to hold onto before we inevitably lose them to time and need to extricate them once more. The little seeds that, when held in our palm, can remind us to be a little nicer. Nicer, a quaint word, a tepid idea, but a harder concept to put into action. And yet, here we go anyway. Let’s call it a new year’s resolution.

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