I was on an errand of mercy, dropping off some homemade soup to my dear, sweet friend who had fallen down the stairs. She invited me to join her and a few friends who were visiting. I intended to stay for 5 minutes, no more. Easy to say, but hard to do when, instead of having a watch, you only have a big mouth.
Such nice people! I felt completely at ease, as if I’d known them my whole life. I began to engage in some witty repartee which quickly degenerated into one of my long-winded stories, peppered with salty language and gratuitous asides. In short, I was bloviating with wild abandon (which is pretty much what I’m doing right now). My sweet friend, who was sitting on the couch next to me, gently put her hand on my back and started to do a little light massage. I realized that she was administering…therapy! Therapy? Suddenly, I felt as awkward as I must have appeared to her other non-loudmouthed, non-offensive, and apparently emotionally-stable guests. I immediately ratcheted down the psi (that would be the “pound-force per square inch”) of my verbal output as I tried to recover some semblance of dignity.
Upon leaving, I apologized for my big mouth which I blamed on the recklessness of old age. The guests graciously pretended to not know what I was talking about and warm goodbyes were exchanged all around.
Steeped in regret, I tossed and turned my way through that whole, sleepless night. In the morning, I called my friend to apologize for my inappropriate behavior, and she said, “Oh, you’re like me—you were having such a good time that you just got out there and forgot to come back—I do that all the time.” Greatly relieved, I told her that her massage technique for reeling me back in was brilliant, and she said, “Well, I had your back this time, and next time, you’ll have mine.” No lectures, no scolding, no disappointment, no righteous indignation–just light-hearted understanding and compassion, loving kindness that breaks your heart and heals it at the same time. If I were religious, I would call it the grace of God.
So here’s the spiritual takeaway for me: This is one of life’s endless lessons that reminds me to be humble, that makes me grateful for the kindness and love that is bestowed upon me when I least expect or deserve it, that warns me not to rush to judgment, that exhorts me to be kind when I have a “right” to be enraged, and which informs me that if I must err, let it be on the side of love.
The literary takeaway for me is that the journey of life is like walking through a minefield, each step fraught with imminent peril devised by our own malevolence. Come to think of it, Shakespeare seemed to know that self-sabotage may have been the default setting of the human condition when he warned, using a crude pun, of being hoist with one’s own petar(d).
So, emboldened by the Bard himself, I hereby close with a warning which is intended for a sole beneficiary: Me.
As you negotiate your way through that minefield, watch your step because the asshole you blow up…just might be your own.
Photo Credit: http://www.thetwocommandments.com