Sometimes, people are surprised that we are happy.
"If anyone had an excuse to be angry," they say, "it’s you guys."
But everyone has an excuse. And it’s no excuse at all.
We have Pinterest boards and tattoos and self-help books filled with inspirational reminders to be kind, to treat others as we want to be treated, but it’s still literally a news story when people are actually kind to one one another. Not because we aren’t capable of kindness, not because we don’t appreciate it and crave it in ourselves and others, but because we simply forget what it looks like in practice.
Our own daily frustrations quickly cloud our judgment. We are short with each other. We are dismissive to each other. With the blinders of our own wants and needs, we honk our horns and raise our voices and blatantly forget the humanity of those around us.
For the record, when I say “we” I am 100% including myself because in case you didn’t read that post, I HAVE WRITTEN A LETTER OF COMPLAINT TO PAPA MURPHY’S BECAUSE THE TEENS WHO SERVED ME WERE NOT “LIVING THE BRAND.” I AM FOR SURE THE PITS SOMETIMES.
Through the past three years, I’ve seen the best in people and the worst in people, and it’s all been a powerful mirror for self reflection.
For too long, I spent my energy on what wasn’t. On what could have or should have been, rather than what simply was. I focused immeasurable amounts of emotional energy on the wrong people and the wrong situations, assuming intent in others and defiantly asserting my own absolute correctness in every imaginary iteration of any situation.
If I was unhappy or frustrated or angry, it was certainly not my fault. No, not at all. There were six degrees of separation between me and my problems, and they all connected to someone else, something else. But definitely not me.
People are kind, so kind it is astonishing. People are also careless and cruel and short-sighted, so much so that it’s astonishing.
On a very long run on a very cold Minnesota day, I listened to a TED podcast on happiness where a linguist pointed out that certain languages lack a conditional tense. There is no could have or would have or should have, there is only what was or was not.
It’s truly easier to be a happier person without the myriad possibilities of the conditional tense, and it’s easier to be a kinder person if we’re not so quick to assume we know where someone is coming from, that we understand an unspoken intent, that it is vitally important to react with certainty and be right, dammit.
Our problems are not bigger or more important than someone else’s problems, they’re just our problems. You are carrying a weight that nobody else can see, and so is everyone else.
We know that small acts of kindness reverberate into viral Facebook posts and broadcast news coverage, but we fail to see the damage done by our small acts of negativity. It spreads just as virally, a chain reaction of terrible.
What I’m trying to say, and again, this is coming from a person who has cursed out people for smoking in the parking ramp at the hospital, not an enlightened spiritual leader, is calm the heck down.
Take a breather. Consider each other. Consider your situation from more than one angle. Remember that our time on Earth is a tiny little blip in the history of time and that unless you are actually curing cancer or establishing world peace, your work should not be stressing you out.
Think things over. Remember that there are people in this world who are dying of thirst, right as you are about to lose your shit because there is someone who is driving on the same road as you, but slower than you’d like them to. Think it over again.
Remember that at one point in time, I used to call my police precinct because there were literally teenagers on my lawn.
Cool your jets.
You’re happier already, aren’t you?