Learning Compassion the Hard Way

I feel like I need to offer a content warning for turning lemons into lemonade, or seeing the positive side of things, or whatever. I'm not normally such a ray of sunshine and I don't want y'all to be surprised or shocked by my sudden optimism.

Last week, I came out and found my car had been vandalized. There was a tag scratched into the trunk, and one of the tires had been made flat. Another tire was missing all of its lug nuts, meaning the tire was about to fall off.  There was a gold necklace wound around my windshield wiper blade, too, which if I hadn't seen it might have led to me scratching up my windshield pretty badly. It was unsettling, especially as the car wasn't parked far from my house. Even more unsettling was finding the keys used to scratch the car in our driveway... and discovering that it was done in broad daylight, by an adult man.

I didn't call the cops, because I live in a neighborhood that's being gentrified and the police seem to take any opportunity to shoot black people. If I'm honest, I feel like this sort of push back is to be expected - Oakland is the second fastest in the US when it comes to rising rents, and it's affecting a lot of marginalized people. Gentrification is a form of systematic violence, and I totally acknowledge that as a white cis person I contribute to that by having the access to pay even a bit more. I still felt pretty shaken, even if I understood the sentiment.

Today, I had to take my car in because one of my tires ended up being totally flat yesterday (even after AAA fixed it). When I went in, I discovered that all of my tires were rotting and close to falling apart! Had that guy not tried to take that damn tire off, I might not have realized how dire the situation was until I was driving on a freeway and a tire just exploded on me.  I'm supposed to go to Fort Bragg this upcoming weekend, and having my tires blow up on the way would be an incredibly stressful addition to the trip.

It was definitely one of those moments where I realized that sometimes super shitty things happen but they have an upside that you might be even more grateful for.  I know, kumbaya, right, but I think maybe I'm moving to a better space where it's easier for me to sit with difficult situations. I'm learning how to say "I'm scared or hurt and it sucks, how am I going to care for myself" rather than "how am I going to fight back" and that's a major lesson for me.

It was generally a difficult weekend filled with hard realizations and personal processing, but I'm trying to remind myself that these moments of intensity lead to better things- better relationships, better communication, better understanding of myself, better self care. Processing is one of my least favourite things to do but god, do I love the rewards of trust and intimacy when I do it. The vulnerability is scary each time and it's hard not to want to run away and withdraw or to lash out rather than say how I'm feeling openly and with love. Loving kindness is hard fucking work, but if I am to believe that people genuinely want to do better and not hurt each other, which I think generally is true, then even when I sometimes run up against people who are just assholes I can try to feel compassion rather than anger. It's definitely improved my relationships... even if I still want to overapologize for my emotional honesty.

"We're all wounded animals" is something I remind myself of a lot when I want to take a deep breath and feel loving kindness rather than irritation at someone's behaviour.  It's a hard thing to practice and I absolutely don't get it right all the time! But I'm glad to be moving towards a place of patience rather than constant fury. I just don't have the energy to hate more than about 5 people at any given time.  I still hold that anger is a super important and needed aspect to social justice and change, and I'll still use it as such. But I want it to be a reaction I choose, rather than my default. Iwant to direct that anger energy to punching up, not down.

Categories: activism, best of, communication, love, personal

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