Angels & Adversaries

10.15.20

One minute you look at them with distaste and anger.
The next minute they’re your savior.

The other day I was walking my dog and we were waiting at the stop walk.
Living in New York City social distancing is a constant problem.
All I ever do is avoid people because there’s no way I’m going to be able to pass them with 6 feet of distance.
It wears on me.
Couple that with people who refuse to wear a mask, who walk in packs taking up the whole sidewalk, drag race in the streets, throw trash on the ground, scream and yell and blast music and the negative energy boils inside of me.
Dealing with human beings in this city is an undertaking on a good day but during a worldwide pandemic, it takes herculean strength not to hate everyone around me; the judgment runs rampant in my brain.

I blame it on my upbringing because I was raised to be conscious of other people, and treat others as you would want to be treated. I was taught you were rude and disrespectful if you weren’t and there are no points for that behavior, only demerits. Taking other people into account was the proper way of behaving. While this notion is seemingly a good idea, it can also breed a sense that other people’s feelings and needs are more important than yours. But, that’s a topic for another day.

I have learned the hard way that being conscious of the humans around you isn’t shared by all people, or even most. Maybe they weren’t taught or don’t value the notion. It’s been a hard lesson because it feels like the right and appropriate thing to do. If I can look out for you, you can look out for me, and that social contract benefits us all.

When the contract breaks over and over I’m faced with considering whether this mindset is appropriate. Often I think I’m a sucker. Here I am trying to be sensitive and others aren’t looking out for me at all.

Of course, this has created a great wounding in me. A feeling that other people are entitled to my care and commitment but I’m not worthy of it. Because it’s not being reciprocated, I fear I don’t merit consideration. This makes me incredibly sad, and as a lot of humans do, I resort to anger. “Why should I tiptoe around other people’s feelings and needs when they don’t give a shit about mine?” I’ll say. I’m a little girl whose rug has been pulled from under, forehead smacked on the hardwood, punished for being a good girl. A stupid believer.

This feeling has increased during the pandemic 1000-fold. It feels like my life isn’t considered important enough for other people and that brings out the brute in me. I want to retaliate, to scream, to growl, and attack like a ferocious animal.

I have things I want to do. I don’t want to wear a mask either. I don’t want to be quiet. I don’t want to be alone all the time. I don’t always want to be working on myself or managing my mental state when all I see around me are people doing anything but.

The emotional labor involved in navigating my own thoughts as well as what other people are doing feels like I’ve gotten hit by a Mack truck when I wake up every morning.

I need to find a way to care about others and make more room for myself to bloom and expand. I deserve to take up space. I can learn to disagree with behavior, but not judge. Crushing in on myself makes me incredibly bitter so, clearly, I have work to do.

Time will tell whether we’ll shift into a society that cares about mankind in a big way or we’ll stay locked in the individualist “me” pattern for the long term. It’s not working equitably the way we are now. We can’t be blind forever.

So, getting back to me waiting with my dog on the crosswalk.
A man walked up beside us, had no mask on, coming too close, making me back away.
Immediately I’m hating him and in my irritation move too far into the road to cross the street before the light changes.
I don’t see the van in my haste and he calls “lookout! “
I pick up my pace and the van barrels past me.
Holy shit.
Suddenly I’m filled with immense gratitude for him who literally seconds before I was wishing bad vibes.

We are all each other’s angels and adversaries.
It changes each second of every minute of every 24-hour day.

That is to say…
We’ll all be better off to remember that humanity can flip on a dime.
The healthy breath I was protecting could have been snuffed out.
My adversary one second became my angel the next.

It’s good to recognize and open to the potential in us all.
We’re always each other’s doom or salvation, often at the same time.

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Photo by Rodrigo Curi on Unsplash