Growing up Catholic can do a serious number on you.
I grew up with the famous phrases, ‘Love thy neighbor’, and ‘Do unto those as you would have them do to you’. I’ve gotta say, overall—sound advice. It pays to think before you speak. And it’s incredibly important to see both sides of the coin and to move into another’s space and energy without judgment.
A wise mentor recently reminded me to do my best to learn how to not react. I stared blankly wondering if I was doing a good job.
Not exactly what he meant.
He told me the importance of observing without rash reactions. He stressed the importance of being a gentle and kind observer as to not tangle your energy in others that are looking to dig their claws in. This is especially pertinent to the people who challenge us regularly.
We all have them—old flames, current flames, mother-in-laws, mothers by blood, co-workers, web surfers who comment maliciously on blogs, citizens who voted for Bush, people who don’t like mustard—the list goes on. These people represent a vampiric energy that can suck us dry if we allow it.
I always figured there were two divergent paths to take with these types of people. One would be to say:
“Screw this. I don’t like you. If we were ten I’d drop you from the monkey bars belly down. Jerk.”
Or. . .
Try your best to surround those who push your buttons with love and compassion. I’d try to find qualities about these people that I could connect to and respect. Some people were much harder than others and some so difficult that I would feel fully depleted by the end of our interaction. I would beat myself up because I had so much difficulty in seeing their good side. Little did I know there was a Lucky Door Number 3—
It’s okay to not like someone.
Really? I always associated not liking someone with being mean. Mean isn’t really part of my vocabulary unless wedged between “makes a” and “chicken meatball pasta”. I even considered watching Lindsey Lohan in action to learn a few tricks. Problem is—it just ain’t me. I don’t like to be mean and I especially don’t enjoy being on the receiving end.
It all came to a head recently when someone I have tried to be good to for what seems like several lifetimes decided to attack. They pounced, attacked, tore, and ripped into my emotions after what I had considered a darn good attempt at kindness. I immediately wanted to go into a puzzle-solving place of, ‘how can I make this better’, but then stepped back. I hadn’t earned any of this animosity and if anything, I deserved some gratitude for my consistent efforts to be kind. I was sick of playing Mr. Nice Guy (I don’t make much of a man of any kind, really). I kept a civil tone and decidedly stood up for myself and protected my invaluable energy and space. I cut the nice ribbon and watched it flutter away, and you know what—it was beautiful. I swear I heard the ribbon whisper, ‘Thank you. Now I can rest”.
The soothing voice of my mentor filled my brain as I sat trying my best not to react. I’ve only ever wanted to love and be loved. That sentiment stemmed from a place of fear. Fear that not being loved would mean I was deeply disliked—a crude thought my sensitive Gemini soul couldn’t bear. I chewed on my ego as I eyeballed Door Number 3—it’s okay to not like someone. I needed to drop my fear of being disliked and stop allowing myself to be used as a doormat to someone eager to drag their fear-spiked boots all over me.
It’s okay to not be nice because it doesn’t translate to being mean. Draw boundaries. It translates to respecting yourself and your energy. I had invested way too much time and energy into healing a situation that will forever be aiming a knuckle sandwich in my direction.
I chose to love myself instead of entertaining fear.
I don’t have to be sweet, nor need I be sour. Simply a perfect yogic blend of balance and the ability to withdraw when need be. In respecting my space, I create my own reality and can move forward knowing that I’m not too kind, nor too mean.
I’m just right.
Kathryn is a lover and teacher of yoga by day, a wizard in the kitchen by dinner time and a professional dog snuggler at night.
photography by Heirloom Creative