I sat in a meeting tonight and felt completely slimed by another woman’s share. It was so pregnant with noxious trauma and so saturated in delusion and resentment and suffering that every word that spewed out of her mouth felt like a noose around my neck. I had to clutch my throat and shut my eyes and envision a golden bubble around me. I had to get on my knees just now and pray to God to help me not further absorb a story and a life and world that is so completely not mine. And then I had to pray for compassion and for the ability to let it go.
I’ve always been highly sensitive and empathic. I wear a skin so permeable and fluid I sometimes can’t tell my emotions from another’s. I have to take extra good care of myself when around those who can turn into emotional vampires or verbal vomiters.
For years, I didn’t understand I was built that way, and so instead of practicing compassion, I got defensive. I felt so invaded and attacked by these people that I built up sturdy walls or attacked them back. And I often attacked them through two mental weapons: judgement and self-righteousness.
It can be easy to think we are better than others when we are further along a path of recovery. We can think we are more enlightened or healthier or cleaner or more spiritual. Ha. That term cracks me up. No being can be “more spiritual” than another being. We are all human beings. And it is true that some people are kinder or smarter or more attractive or more giving or gentler or funnier than others, but that doesn’t make them better. I can do this often. I can judge someone for their actions or appearance or attitude or lifestyle, compare it to my own, and deem myself as better. I can also do the exact same thing and deem myself as worse. You often hear people in meetings joke about struggling with being “a person among people,” meaning that they often place themselves as superior or inferior to another person. Greater or less than. Smaller or larger. It actually takes a lot more courage and humility to simply be an equal. To simply be a fellow. To simply be another being.
With this woman tonight, because I at first felt so offended by her share, as if she were personally trying to spew black goop back into the center of my chest, I put up my proverbial dukes and put on my self-righteous hat. I’m more evolved. I’ve been in recovery longer. I would have handled that situation better. She’s sick. She’s addicted to drama. I’m not sick anymore. Though some of these thoughts may be factually true, it doesn’t serve the situation to shut down my heart and judge her for place in the world. It is not my place to do that, and it is also none of my business.
Instead, I have to practice compassion. And like learning to play the violin or developing as a writer or acquiring a foreign language, it is a practice. Meaning you have to mistakes. You won’t do it perfectly. That’s the whole point.
Compassion is not my default yet. I wish it was. But it comes much more quickly now after my initial desire to flight or flee or get my judgement on. Through a few years of meditation and prayer and tools I’ve picked up in recovery, I don’t act out on my thoughts like I used to or react impulsively from a place of fear. I pause a little bit longer. I breathe. I pray. I sometimes say a bunch of crazy shit in my head. And then I try to get to lovingkindness and compassion and remembering that her path is not mine, and it’s not my job to judge it or label it. It’s also not personal.
May she be happy. May she be peaceful. May she be free from suffering.
May I. May You.