I’m lying awake in a hotel room in Milwaukee at 2:30 AM, wondering why someone hasn’t called us back who’d promised to call us back weeks ago about a significant piece of business. Even as I run scenarios in my mind, my noisy, nosey mind, I know I’m barking up a fruitless tree. Who knows why these things happen? It could be any one of a hundred reasons, or any combination of them. It is a silly thing to be lying awake, wondering about. I don’t usually have this kind of trouble sleeping. And yet, I want to take personal responsibility for it. I want to feel that there’s something I can do to swing the energy back our way, and quiet my busy mind. At 2:30 in the morning. In Milwaukee.
I keep returning to an image I posted here with the previous blog, an image I’d photoshopped myself, that depicts a man as an Ooompa Loompa from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I sit up in bed. Gobsmacked. That was mean! A cheapshot. I have no trouble justifying it to most of the people in our network, and in fact, many people with whom I shared the post responded favorably to it. It doesn’t erase the meanness of the image, an image plugging me into the same muddy, bottom-trolling narrative I bemoan in the post.
So this is a mea culpa. I feel now that it was wrong, and so I got up and pulled the picture down.
My middle-of-the-night awareness is that the optimal response to meanness is never more meanness. That’s the direction of a down spiral. Ultimately, anyone engaged in that kind of one-downsmanship narrative will get bogged down in it, made lesser by it, intentions diminished, ability to engage with the world whittled into an ever-narrower aperture. The more intolerance and negativity we put into the world, the more it comes back to haunt us. Just like I’m haunted in the middle of this sleepless night.
My response to injustice, to what I perceive as wrongful, must be kindness. That’s the direction of an up spiral. A kind response doesn’t have to be direct. We live in non-linear world, after all. What goes out in one direction probably won’t come back from that same direction. Just as we are as likely, upon getting hurt, to hurt the next person who comes along, we can, upon being hurt, show kindness to the next person to come along. The universe is always listening. The kindness just has to go out into the world. There are infinite ways to do it. And infinite ways it can come back to us.
And so my choice, at 2:30 in the morning in a hotel room in Milwaukee, has been to take down the mean photo, and replace it with one that depicts a happy story from my college days. Do I think it will prompt a call from the person who promised to call us back? Probably not. Too linear. Too quid pro quo. Do I think it will help me get to sleep? A more reasonable idea. The sleeping gods taunt those who worry, and reward those who close their eyes with a smile.
Tomorrow, I’ll worry less about what’s wrong in the world, and focus more on being kind.
I’ll smile at someone frowning.
Check in with someone who’s checked out.
Support someone struggling to find balance.
Simplify a complicated situation.
Hug someone who’s hurting.
Surprise someone with a gift, a call, a note.
Drop a dollar into a homeless person’s cup.
Play peekaboo with a child on a plane.
There are infinite ways to be kind. All of them come back to us, and we are lifted up when they do.