Monday, June 27, 2016

Compassion 101

I have been thinking a lot lately about compassion. I struggle with it. More than anything I want to be a truly compassionate person but it does not come easily to me. If you consider the full spectrum of compassionate people we have known or know, there are the likes of Mother Teresa at one end, devoting her entire life to the art of compassion, with someone like Idi Amin at the opposite end - void of compassion. 

Now, I know I am no Mother Teresa and I am certainly no brutal dictator and I like to think I am closer to the Mother Teresa end of the spectrum than the Idi Amin end, but I don't seem to be able to fully feel compassion for all. It's like that story/movie Dead Man Walking. I don't know how she did that. How did she feel genuine compassion for that man - a convicted murderer? I have difficulty feeling compassion for people who have never murdered anyone - people who have possibly been law-abiding citizens their entire lives but for some reason I find them annoying or boring or daft. I try to find it within myself to be less judgmental and to look for the goodness or flicker of light or inspiration in people, but I often fail. I do try. As I get older, I try even harder. I know that everyone has a story to tell. I will find myself in a conversation with another person consciously digging. Digging to mine a gem out of them. Digging to bring forth some jewel of wisdom or share something with me that reveals their essence but sometimes I get nothing. 

The next time I see such a person, I dread the contact. I dread the small talk. I try to avoid yet another exchange void of anything of value to me. I feel drained by these encounters. I feel my time is stolen. Does this mean I am not compassionate enough? I find I am being tested a lot lately, like I need to go take a course or something. Compassion 101. And it does not just apply to ordinary people in my midst. It applies - perhaps even  more so - to people in the media. The Orlando shooter. Terrorists. Brexit leave voters. Racists. Homophobes. Trump. The Kardashians. You get the picture. 

Then I wonder - is it necessary for me to be so compassionate? Maybe my stores of compassion are all used up with my family, friends and loved ones. Maybe we are only born with a finite dollop of the stuff.  That makes more sense to me because I truly feel I am scraping the bottom of the jar some days. Perhaps there are those that do not deserve our compassion and by not receiving it, it forces them to examine themselves. "Gee, I wonder why Deb avoided me today? Maybe she doesn't like me. What doesn't she like about me?" This also makes sense because by withholding compassion, I have forced someone to look within. Of course there is no guarantee they will, but it definitely increases the odds. 

So maybe compassion works that way. Sometimes we are and sometimes we aren't and the people who receive our compassion benefit in an opposite way from the people who don't. This may sound like I am trying to justify my less compassionate side. Perhaps I am.  All I know is there are people who lift you, inspire you and are a joy to be around and it is only natural that we would want to spend the majority of our time with them. They do not require me to withdraw from my compassion account at all and in fact seem to make deposits. AHA! That's it! Maybe that is how it works. The more time we spend being filled, the more compassion we accumulate and when it comes time to spread some around we have plenty to share. 

That speaks to the whole notion of being grateful as well. If we are grateful on a conscious level everyday (and I am), does that fuel compassion? I think it does. Do you ever notice when you have endured an experience with someone you find difficult to be around, you come away even more grateful for your life than you did a few moments earlier? I do. 

Maybe compassion should be viewed as a gift. A gift we give or a gift we receive. So maybe we just aren't meant to go around giving it away willy nilly. 

For now, dear readers, I will pause this contemplation on the art of compassion and come back to it another day as I think it is worthy of far more examination.

See? That was compassion. A small gift to you. You can go now. :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Expert Status Achieved

I was told the other day that I was expert at something. Those were his exact words. "You're really expert at that darl." It has never occurred to me that I was an expert at anything really. I sort of believe that being expert means you are highly trained  or educated in a particular subject matter or profession and that warrants an "expert" badge. You know, like a heart surgeon or a nuclear physicist - that kind of expert. 

No, he was referring to me being an expert hostess. We have company coming for the weekend and so I was lamenting my "to do" list. The food planning and shopping, the preparation of the guest room and the organizing of activities and so on. Apparently I am an expert at making all these arrangements for guests. An expert at fussing so to speak. It made me wonder what would happen if I did not fuss. What would happen if the guest room was not prepared and the meals were not planned, the ice cube trays were empty and there were dead flowers in the vase?

Would the world end if I didn't make bliss balls and guacamole? What would happen if I threw a fresh set of sheets on the bed and said make up your own bed and help yourself to towels in the linen closet? What if I decided to let people help themselves to the food in the fridge and let everyone fend for themselves? What if I went about my business and did not shop and plan and organize? Would my guests feel less welcome? What would that be like? 

The truth is, I have been doing "hostessing" for my whole adult life. By this stage, it is a bit like second nature. I guess you could say I have become expert at making people feel welcome and pampered when they stay with me in my home. It is something I have indeed become "expert" at over the years. I guess I just never looked at it as being something that one becomes "expert" at. It got me to thinking that perhaps it is something I do that is of value. I have been getting my "Martha" on for longer than I care to admit. We tend to diminish these simple gestures in our own minds as necessary tasks when in reality they are carefully thought out gestures of giving and caring we offer to the people we love. Don't we all love a clean and tidy bedroom with fresh linens and a comfy bed when we are away from home? Isn't it a treat to have someone else prepare our meals? I know for certain that I am genuinely appreciative of these welcoming niceties when I am a visitor. 

Without realizing it, being told I am "expert" at something as simple as making guests feel welcome in my home is a pretty nice compliment and it made me realize my efforts do not go unnoticed. So, thanks Mick. I will take that compliment and wear my "expert" badge proudly this weekend, grateful in the knowing I have a partner who appreciates what I do and what I bring to the table of our life together.