Awareness is important and necessary to any kind of growth. The moment I became conscience of my behavior, my words, my thoughts, is the same moment I realized the immeasurable importance awareness has in our lives. It forces us to become responsible for our actions and reactions and propels self discovery.
It isn't an easy process at first, becoming self aware takes time and patience. I work on it every single day and still fail at it every single day. As much as I want to understand and want to lead with compassion when a cashier is short with me or when I pass a weird neighbor, sometimes my insecurities take over and I allow myself to criticize and judge. But, then, because of awareness, I snap out of it and gain new perspective. Hopefully this practice will become habit over time and my mind won't even venture into the dark side of judgement. My words, behaviors, and thoughts affect other people and I have stopped taking this for granted and refrained from denying culpability.
Today I encountered this lesson once again, right in my backyard, literally. I have this neighbor and well, we haven't had the warmest of interactions. In fact, most of the time I run into her, she walks the other way or just stands still and doesn't speak. She is completely unphased and almost bothered by my need to say hello, so I just stopped. When I would see her my ego would become a little bit bruised and I would start thinking thoughts like...she is so odd, why does she do this, or why does she do that, what is wrong with her, and the classic, what did I ever do to her. My instinct is to feel hurt I was not acknowledged or that my perceived expectations were not fulfilled. Immediately a feeling of defensiveness takes over and self preservation is all that matters. My pain becomes the most important. After I fight off the demon of my ego, I can see past the "weird" behavior and start seeing someone else's pain.
I'm not quite sure what pain my neighbor carries and frankly, it doesn't really matter and shouldn't really matter. My job is to refrain from adding to that pain and to try to show love and kindness, even when I don't want to. I started thinking about her in a different light over the last few weeks. I began seeing her as a human being and not someone who just doesn't say hello. And then, today, I came face to face with her outside while taking out the dog. I sometimes watch my friend's dog, Savannah, and because she is a golden retriever and I am on wheels, I have to be very careful. I can't take Savannah and Belle (my twelve pound cockapoo) out at the same time. Savannah is a lovely and wonderful dog, but she can pull me into the next state if I am not careful. As Savannah was doing her business, my neighbor flew by on her bike. She didn't look up, just kept riding along. Savannah, who is afraid of bikes, cowered and yanked the leash so hard it flew out of my hand. She was backing up to stay away from the bike. Almost instantly, my neighbor dismounted her bike, ran over to me and started trying to grab Savannah's leash. And in that act of kindness I saw a piece of her I neglected to see before...she is deathly afraid of dogs. She mustered every ounce of bravery, fought against timidly shaking hands, and reached out to grab a hold of Savannah's leash over and over. Because of her immense fear she kept pulling her hand back every time Savannah came close. She was overcoming her own fear to help someone else, someone in need. No matter how difficult it was for her to jump off her bike and assist me, she did it anyway. I called Savannah and made her sit and she did, the drama was over. I then looked up at my neighbor, I still don't know her name, and said, "Thank you, I can't believe how nice you are to try and help me." She just looked at me and hopped back on her bike.
I don't need a response from her. I don't need to know why she is the way she is and I don't need know what caused her trepidation around dogs. What I discovered I do need to know is that she is a person, just like I am, carrying around her own personal demons, dilemmas, and mountains to climb. And she shouldn't have to visibly fight against her issues, on my behalf, for me to comprehend and respect this discovery...I owe her these things because she is a person, a soul.