Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Are you Kind?

Out of a lack of inspiration I’ve been tardy on blog posting lately. But thanks to Emily and Litlove I don’t need to come up with a subject—I’ve been tagged for a meme!

This is the Kindness Meme:

1. List five kind things you do for yourself.

1) Have my shows: Now that I’m off most nights I actually have a TV schedule. Here it is: Sunday: HBO—they just finished what just might be my favorite all time drama series, The Wire. I love Flight of the Conchords as well. Monday: Top Gear, Tuesday: nothing on except reruns of The Office, Wednesday: South Park—I’ve rediscovered its crude mockery of shlock culture. A new episode airs tonight. Thursday: Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (the British version. I’ve realized that the idiot Americans they sign on at FOX make Ramsay appear like a watered-down phony), The Office (at least until the writers strike caused it to be preempted by Trump’s latest embarrassing reality show) and 30 Rock. Friday: Usually I don’t have to resort to TV on Friday. Saturday: Same as Friday.

2) Chinese Buffets: I love the idea of endless supplies of egg rolls. I limit myself to three trips to the buffet per visit, and one of those is for sushi, so usually I can actually walk to the car after the meal. Another kind thing I do for myself in the area of food is Bojangles fried chicken with dirty rice and coleslaw. Don’t tell the American Chef’s Federation.

3) Give myself a pass. Actually I do this more than I should, but when I have some task looming over me I allow myself to just forget it temporarily. Just temporarily, you understand. I learned somewhere in my twenties if you do this permanently society pretty much ostracizes you, and then they shut your water off.

4) Read anything I want and ignore most recommendations. Does anyone feel like me when someone recommends a book, that no matter how good it is it still feels like an obligation? I like the idea of an organic reading map, where one avenue of interest sends you off in a new and unexpected direction. So much of life is about following certain overly-trodden paths; I like the freedom of following my own mental curiosity.

5) Lower my expectations and lower my perceived expectations from others. A great deal of my social anxiety comes from imagining what others expect of me. Lately it dawned on me that there is no real way to know all that is expected of you and much of what we do know is exaggerated. Of course, I have to take into consideration things that really are necessary like what’s expected at work and so forth. But imagining someone’s image of you and trying to be that person instead of yourself is crazy. I’ve also reduced my expectations of others and am surprised at how much I get from them anyway. I think I’ve reached a truce with the world-at-large, except when I’m driving of course.

2.List five kind things you do for your closest friend, partner or child.

I’m going to do this for closest friend, altering it to closest friends.

1) Listen. I am an awesome listener. I can make eye-contact, nod appreciatively, ask the right questions, sympathize, laugh, console and collaborate like nobody’s business. I’m curious by nature, and not exactly an overbearing personality, so long-winded-types sometimes gravitate towards me, but close friends can expect a strong listener. Just one thing I ask, don’t ask my ex-girlfriend to verify that statement.

2) Allow them to be who they are. I used to form resentments toward some of my close friends based on their behavior. This would often cause tension. I have a friend who wears his whole life out on his sleeve. That means a lot of what pops into his head comes out of his mouth. This can be innocuous enough if the subject isn’t me. If it is me I can learn a whole lot about what I could be doing better in life, like fixing my lawnmower or itemizing every receipt I receive from the gas-station. I’ve learned to agree wholeheartedly with all of his suggestions and then go on being my slack-about-yard-work-and-taxes-self. Passive aggressive? Maybe, but without the aggression.

3) Flattery. It gets you everywhere apparently. I make sure to try and identify what people are proud of. This is genuine by-the-way, because when you’re curious about people the best way to get to know what makes them happy is to see what causes them pride. I make a big deal about my friends’ pets, projects, life-works, children, accomplishments and general stuff-of-identity. This usually gets them talking, and then it’s time for the listening to kick in.

4) Make them laugh. I’m pretty good at this. This isn’t necessarily a cognitive decision on my part, plenty of my friends and relatives can go toe-to-toe with me on humor and initiate hilarity, but so many of my close relationships are based on laughter and a co-recognition of the absurd.

5) Cook for them. A couple of my friends are complete philistines, thank God, so they wouldn’t know a filet from a French fry. But I occasionally get to cook for those who appreciate it, and that’s a good feeling. Oops, I almost did that Martha Stewart thing didn’t I? I think she used to say, “It’s a good thing.”

3.List five kind things you have done for a stranger.

1) When I was in South Africa I was with a friend and we came across a dog who was crying out in pain and struggling to get on its feet. Everyone was walking by and ignoring it. The dog was letting out some agonizing yells and I just felt that we couldn’t walk by. I picked the dog up and carried it to the house where I was staying, quite a substantial distance. We gave the dog some water and food but it wasn’t interested. We stayed with it until it died about two hours later. Then we buried it in the brush beyond the garden. We managed to make it comfortable until then, so it wouldn’t die in the street. A dog is a kind of a stranger, isn’t it?

2) My brother-in-law Dan taught me this. We were walking through the old part of my town known as Old Salem. Dan waved at every dad-gum car that came by. Every single one. Sometimes they waved back. I walk through Old Salem about three or four times a week and now I wave, say hello and smile at the majority of the people I meet.

3) Listen respectfully, and sometimes engage in meaningful conversations, with the Christian groups who often canvas my neighborhood. These folks show up on Saturdays every now and then and usually start out with a question like “have you excepted the Lord Jesus Christ into your life?” I always say “yep” although I don’t really know if I have or I haven’t. Once they asked me the question “if you were to die today do you expect to go to heaven?” I said “yep” and then we got into an interesting discussion about their religion’s ground rules for getting into heaven. Turns out, buy their standards, I wouldn’t get in. Not even close. It’s certainly good to know that. They told me I could learn more if I were to join them at their community supper next Thursday, or was it Friday, I forget. I thanked them and told them good luck.

4) I bought a beer for a guy at a rock concert who had just somersaulted about three hundred yards down a steep embankment (don’t ask me why he did it, but the crowd loved it). Of course I had just knocked the first beer he was drinking out of his hand while exclaiming what an amazing stunt it was, so I guess it was just pay-back, plus his friends looked kind of surly and angry and something told me I had better replace the beer.

5) I saw a guy go into an abandoned house near me the other night and I wondered if I should call the police. I had the feeling that he was just getting in from out of the cold. I thought about it and decided to ignore it. I have no idea if this was the right choice, there have been some break-ins in my neighborhood recently and who knows what the guy was up to. There is also a single mother with a young child who lives right next door, so this was a tough one. I would hate to ruin a guy’s night, and tie up city resources, for a simple trespassing. But in not doing anything I may have been putting people at risk. I don’t know, if you comment, let me know what you think.

4. Have fun!


5. Tag five people.
Froshty if she hasn’t been tagged. Linser, you could email yours to me I could post them here. Anyone else, go for it!


Charlotte said...

You're very kind. And all those qualities you listed make me think it's not going to be very long before you have a girlfriend again.

litlove said...

What lovely answers. You sound like a very nice friend to have. That man in abandoned house thing is tricky, isnt't it? I think I would have watched him so I could put a good description together if necessary, and kept an eye on the situation for a while, but neither would I want to overreact. Oh and my son adores Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. He is very, um, vivid in the flesh, isn't he?

Emily Barton said...

A dog (just like Musings from the Sofa's frog) is most definitely a stranger. What a sad story! Contrary to what your ex-girlfriend might say, I can attest to the fact that you're a good listener (you had to be, growing up with three sisters who never let you get in a word edgewise). And you most certainly DO make people laugh.

IM said...

Charlotte, thanks. I'm enjoying being single in a lot of ways as well. I'm learning a great deal.

Litlove, the abandoned house question is tricky, but I think I did the best thing at the time. Next time I think I'll go over and investigate.

Yes Emily I had to be a good listener didn't I? Because of the all the talking going on in our family. I think I managed to catch most of awhat was being siad unless everyone was talking at once.

Richard said...

Wow, 5th thing you do for yourself was like you were speaking directly to me! Thank you for writing that!

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