“Damn,” says the voice in my head. “Did I just really think that less than tactful thought as I see that “Eric” is on the walking loop that I want for myself?”

Yes. I have thought unkindly of another at 7:30am –when the day is fresh and I am in method in a space of possibility. I feel my body register a cringe and the related thought of, “I don’t need to hear about Eric’s forever dark rain cloud, yet again.”

“I” feel literally “ugly” for having this gut reaction to seeing a fellow morning walker, BUT, he is always throwing up on my great morning mood. I am tired of feeling “obligated” to be nice and listen and he never gets that he is imposing himself on others as he carries on about his angst of being a heart patient, watching his investments and frustrated that he can’t be appreciated as the sensitive man he is (Who what? Sounds like someone who would rather have been a woman?)

The park is a popular neighborhood park that attracts dog owners, walkers and runners alike.  And some of those people are content to wave a morning hello and walk on. And some people have to catch up with you and then they assume you want to hear about their angst and well, eventually, that drives me away to the lower level to walk, where they don’t go.

This morning as I arrived at the top level of the park I have walked for five years, I spotted Eric walking toward me and I could sense he saw me. My feet wanted to turn and head back down to the lower half of the mile loop, but I told myself, “No, today you will not be “self-centered” and openly avoid him. He saw you. Go and be a good listener today.”

I was committed to listening with a compassionate heart, but after 20 minutes, the monologue of Eric’s feels literally toxic and my skin is crawling to get away. And I tell myself, “Just excuse yourself and drop down to the lower park now. You have proved yourself a good listener, yet again…”

I consider myself a generous person but from time to time even I reach my limits, then after taking care of myself, I feel “bad” about myself? What is that about?  I’d like to feel better about taking care of my needs and not the expense of others. Is this possible? Is this okay to want?

So, I am pondering now what part of me is unwilling to be seen as “selfish” or “unkind” and what motivates me to put up with unpleasant conversations?  How did I get to be this kind of grown-up? I turn it around in my head one day as I am talking with a friend who understands me well.

Somewhere back in time when I was small and learning how to cope with my mom and dad, I can see myself being quiet and learning how to be a good listener first. For what I wanted most of all was to be loved and and not forgotten. And my mom in particular had a lot going on all the time and the last thing I wanted to do was upset her.  I remember being as young as eight and having to act a lot more grown-up to keep things peaceful for my little sister and I. My job was to listen to her, whatever her mood was and she was sad and talkative a lot of the time.

And at the end of the day, what was my goal really: To feel loved by my mother, at whatever it cost me personally. And being rude to her (or anyone else) wouldn’t get me that, would it?

It is only years later and after much conversation with my own self and others, I see that I need not always be the good listener and I will either be liked for who I am or not, and I can be okay with both outcomes.

So what do I do this morning–based on the conversation I have been having with myself, the entire time Eric has been carrying on about his novel in progress? I stopped at a fork in the loop and said, “Well, Eric, here is where I get off and get home to work. I’ll see you later.”

And I walk away, the air of the morning again feels fresh and light, which is how I like it first thing in the morning.

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  1. Antoinetta on May 15, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    That dear Deborah is the part in you that is still committed to living up to your “parents” conditions (those who raised you whomever they were).

    Some people hear the voice and opinions of their parents in their heads their entire life and don’t separate from needing to want to please them. At some point we are okay to be okay with not wanting to please our parents. Yes?
    Once you have identified your own voice/opinions that express what matters most to you than “being considered selfish” or “unkind” might get a total new and different content.

    Obeying to your parent’s wishes and behave the way they preferred you to behave can be like a compulsion if you used to perceive that their appreciation for you was at stake. A child will bend over backwards to please their parent and get feel-good-about-Self when having done so. So when trying to get away of that behavior that doesn’t serve you anymore you are having such a hard time because of the connection of the behavior with your parent/caregiver’s love and acknowledgment of you as a valuable son or daughter.

    When you think with your own mind there is nothing at stake anymore when changing your behavior. All you do is draw a logical conclusion based on a situation that needs a solution. Why would you then be affected by Eric (or anyone else) not being totally happy with you? It would not trouble you. You would see it and not take it on personally.

    If you learn to listen with your own judgment (your heart) you are “done” with this type of problem and the universe won’t even expose you to this anymore. You would move on. And when you encounter a person who would attempt to “rope” you in, it simply would not work on you and you would without guilt, take care of yourself, leave if you needed to, end a conversation when you needed to.

    And what would he do, once he saw what you were doing? He would change the way you and he interacted on those morning walks. How could he not?

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