I have a sneaking suspicion that most people look at me and think they see a nice middle-aged mom wearing stretch jeans from Walmart who drives an SUV and spends her free time watching “Murder, She Wrote” marathons on the Hallmark Channel. And they are right, mostly. Except about the nice part. I’m really not that nice at all. There are days when I’m a downright pain in the neck.
Nice. Sugar and spice and everything…nice. What is “nice”? To me nice is not taking a chocolate chip cookie to ensure that there will be enough to go around and then secretly resenting the people who ate YOUR chocolate chip cookie. Nice is telling your best friend she’s 100 percent right about her job, marriage, kids when what she really needs is an in-her-face reality check. Nice is telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear, something I’m far too guilty of doing far too often.
After a whole lot of contemplation over numerous glasses of wine, I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t want to be nice. What I want to be is kind. Truly kind. Kindness means being truthful but it relies heavily on tact so that the truth is told in a way that doesn’t hurt your feelings but still gets its point across loud and clear. Kindness listens to what people are saying and, even more importantly, remembers it for later. Kindness looks you in the eyes while you’re talking and it waits until you’re finished before responding. Kindness tells you when you are messing up but it also reminds you that it’s still possible to stop behaving like an idiot. Kindness waits for you but it doesn’t rush you. Kindness knows when to keep its trap shut.
Dogs are kind. People not so much.
Unfortunately I have also figured out that I have at least two brains in my head, possibly three. Maybe even four. But the two primary brains consist of one that is pure emotion and one that is slightly more mature and logical with an emphasis on slightly. I tend to run with the pure emotional brain 99 percent of the time and pure emotions tend not to be pretty. Or nice. Definitely not kind.
Example: someone irritates me. (I won’t name names since who might irritate me at any given moment varies radically due to the position of the sun, what I ate for breakfast and how well I slept the night before.) But let’s say I’ve been irritated/snubbed/hurt/whatever and I react by doing something completely irrational like running that person over with my car. Not really, of course, but mentally my tormentor has been flattened like a pancake in a parking lot while I drive off with a smug smile on my face.
That’s what I’d like to do. In reality I typically react in one of two ways: sulking or pointing out the irritating person’s faults to anyone and everyone who will listen to me. On the rare occasion when my more mature, logical brain wins during a battle between sticking my tongue out at someone and wiggling my fingers in my ears or responding with a thoughtful, Mr. Spock-esque “interesting,” I invariably walk away from the encounter feeling like an honest-to-God grownup, a sensation I’ve enjoyed at least seven times in my life.
So how do you segue way from being nice to kind, from emotional to logical? Damned if I know. It’s one of those things that take constant attention, like growing a rose garden or lowering your cholesterol. But if you ever run into me in my SUV and stretch jeans, I hope you won’t automatically think I’m just another nice middle-aged mom. Instead think kindly of me because that’s what I’m trying to do about you along with everyone else I meet. Do I always succeed? Not hardly. Not even close. Possibly even never.
But it sure beats mentally running you over in an empty parking lot.