Choices. There are too many of them.
Overwhelmed, I avoid making any. I try and fool myself into thinking that I don’t have many choices but that isn’t true. The smart part of me knows it.
Lately, I avoid writing to avoid understanding. Confusion feels familiar, almost necessary. The idea of lifting the veil and seeing what is behind the curtain is too much.
Yesterday, in Fred Meyer’s an elderly woman on the toilet paper aisle needs to talk. I see it in her eyes, in her posture. She is lonely. Naturally outgoing, she seems lost in a sea of strangers and reaches out to me to make a connection. I listen and smile politely aware of her great need, happy to fulfill some function, to be that friendly face in the crowd.
Suddenly, everyone in the store decides they must come down this same aisle. The elderly woman isn’t finished talking. She is unaware of the crowd pressing against our space, a space that isn’t ours, one that we must share. I try to steer her to safety but she blocks my path eager to talk, needing me to listen. Impatience pushes in behind me. A woman gently nudges me with her cart. I am annoyed and understanding all in the same moment. Like her, I would feel impatient if someone was blocking my path. I would not bump my cart into them. This level of rudeness bothers me.
Worse yet, my elderly woman is telling me of an old trauma. The woman used to work in a grocery store, actually owned one with her husband until the big corporations forced them out of business. She continued working as a clerk until she was 75. She stands before me with more energy and vigor than I. She must be hugging 80. Over 20 years ago, an unpleasant encounter with a person of a different ethnic group, impacted her so strongly that she still needs to talk about it. I’m torn. I hope no one will hear. I understand how she feels. I also know that the nationality or race or religion doesn’t matter, rude people come in every shape, size and flavor i.e. like the woman using her cart as a battering ram. I want to be any where but there trapped by the toilet paper, kleenex,adult diapers and limited humans.
For a split second, I consider gently telling my elderly acquaintance, I’m not comfortable with what could be perceived as bigotry. It might be the right thing to do. It may not be. It won’t change her view. She’s invested years in harboring the injury, in blaming a nationality for the transgressions of the few. Injustice was done years ago and it continues to be done by the victim who has unfairly judged others from that day forward.
The woman behind effectively pushes me aside with her cart. Her sigh is almost a snort.
“PLEASE, get out of my way,” she huffs.
I apologize, automatically. I don’t like the fact that I am blocking others. My intention wasn’t to block or delay. I, also, don’t like being rammed by the cart and for a split second I consider telling her so but why cause a scene? I wanted to listen to a woman who needed someone to validate her, to accept her and all her biases. It was what I was called to do. The woman behind me had no idea what was in my heart and that I was blocked by women of limited awareness on all sides. The more impatient one did not comprehend or perceive anything in me other than a road block. I was unruly furniture, a problem to be forced out of the way.
My discomfort rose when I finally parted from this tangle. The incident haunted me. At times, I am both of these women. Bias often limits my perception. I can be impatient with strangers. What can seem justifiable and right might often be only a reflection of my limitations, my limited perspective. My head spins. I long for peace in a world that struggles against it. I long for peace and my own soul often fights against it. Opposition, conflict is easy. Fairness, compassion, love are not.
We live in a horrible paradise. Beautiful roses have thorns. Wind and rain can destroy or save. Work is hard. We envy. Our lack, our limitations can make us mean, thoughtless, brutal and harsh. Facing our limitations can open a vault of despair. Acts of kindness can get us in trouble. Progress can run us over. Worldly success can pass us by. We ache, we cry for all that we are not and blame others outside ourselves for the darkness that lives inside each of us.
We forget who we really are. We forget that in a paradise lost, there is also a paradise regained. We fail to understand the wisdom of opposites. We try to harvest them from our minds and hearts so that we can indulge in the illusion that we know better. We reap what we sew. We lose contact with the Divine Spark, with Love, with God. We want to understand something we can not and make ourselves miserable in the process. We convince ourselves that we are victims of the darkness. We fail to choose the light.