It has been a long time since I wrote in my blog. Today I thought I would like to do some work on my observations of how people around me have given me the opportunity to examine myself. I am not in the league of the Dalai Lama , Buddha, Einstein, Socrates or any of the great thinkers or philosophers but I have the benefit of a few years of observation and reflection that I would like to share and receive comments on if you wish to make them. I have no answers about how one should live his life only how my own has always had lots of room for improvement. And I see how I learn from the reflections of my actions just what works for me and what doesn’t. Often the reflection comes through the effect I have on people and things around me. And how they respond impacts my perception of myself. .So how can I use that impact in the most productive way? Simply by changing my perception and making it work for me rather than against me.
Oh I am as guilty of this as much as the next fellow. Criticising , that is Yet there are those wonderful people who seem to go with the flow, roll with the punches and still come out smiling without complaint. Not me. I simply HAVE to voice my opinion of the actions of others that don’t jibe with how I perceive they should behave. I work at it. Really I do . Usually I say nothing to them. And when I do have to vent , I choose my sounding board carefully. It is a matter or survival after all. And besides who wants a comeback that will be damaging to the ever-present ego.
The odd thing is that I cannot stand listening to people who criticise others. It appears to me that indirectly they are boasting about themselves.
I give and receive criticism . For example; I have a way of folding my sheets that suits me just fine. My mother has her way of doing it which I really don’t like. She chooses an accordion style and I like mine to tuck in so that when I lift them nothing dangles. I have learned to say nothing because when once I superciliously proclaimed that I ( said with emphasis) NEVER do MINE that way , I got a look that would take the starch right out of those sheets. And her indignation is understandable. It really doesn’t matter how she folds her sheets or how I do mine as long as we are both pleased with what we have to handle. Lesson learned.
Many years ago well over a third of a century past, I remember peeling potatoes for a friend at her house. I was peeling so that I would make sure the skin came off very thinly because when I was a child my mother had been very particular about not wasting potatoes . She managed a restaurant for a time and how she would mutter under her breath about the wasteful young man who peeled the potatoes for French fries. It was nigh a capital offence in her mind. She was mindful of the dollars and cents and many of those thick skins would make a full order of fries if care were taken to shave the potatoes carefully.
Anyway I had heard this over and over for many years so when I peeled potatoes I took great pains to do it in a way that would make my mother proud. After doing a gallon for the acquaintance I was visiting I cut them up for boiling. No fries on this occasion. I was very pleased with myself.
But not for long.
The lady I was helping took one look at my workmanship, stuck her nose in the air, put her hand in the pot , took out one potato and with a look of utter scorn sniffed the words, “ Eyes! These potatoes have eyes. I can’t stand having eyes looking up at me from my plate!”
Well. I never forgot that day. I never forgot how deflated I was and embarrassed. My face was flaming as it always did when I received disapproval . I am sixty-three now . I rarely blush. But back then approval from others mattered. And I still remember the incident as if it were yesterday though I have long ago realized that I should have just laughed it off.
But to this day , in my kitchen, potatoes skins are peeled off as delicately as a debrided burn , and the eyes are neatly cored out and put in the garbage. It is a habit born out of criticism. What I don’t understand is why I do that. I don’t mind a little wastage from thick peels nor do I care about the remnants of an eye on my potato.
In fact these matters mean absolutely nothing to me. I gather my behaviour comes from attributing too much importance to the opinions of others.
Often people make trivial preferences sound like life or death matters and we question our own way of doing things as if somewhere in the universe there is a list of dos and don’ts that we must pay attention to. And it is a given that there will be some one who will have that list memorized. Generally it is a self-appointed authority who will raise her/himself up by pointing out your deficiencies.
But I have learned that the very things we criticize in others is what we dislike most about ourselves. I see it when my friends complain. But I dare not mention it because I have learned that there is no faster method to have my faults pointed out than to suggest someone else has any. So the next time, my friend interrupts me when I am talking or says something I don’t like, I will silently thank her for irritating me. My irritation is the marker that indicates what I must work on in myself.