Be Nice Like You Are

With only 10 months before I enter the Empty Nest phase of my life, I’ve been doing a lot of fantasizing about how I’m going to reinvent myself. I’m the luckiest duck on the planet, since my options are many. Short of starring in a movie with Ray Liotta, I could actually live out some of my fantasies.

I could:

• Go ape over volunteer projects and say, “Yes, yes and yes!” to all requests from the non-profit groups that I cherish.

• Go back to school and get a master’s degree in something - anything - that isn’t journalism, so I can do something besides the newsletter when I say, “Yes, yes and yes!” to those groups.

• Be a foster parent. I’ve wanted to get my hands on a temporary baby ever since I realized I wasn’t going to be popping out any more of my own.

• Write a bunch of books and maybe one will slip through the publishing cracks and actually sell.

But recently, I’ve been thinking about taking some time off from the world; quitting all projects and just holing up in my house . . . unplugging the computer and turning off the TV and being a hermit. Maybe pick up my knitting needles again or learn calligraphy or caning.

And I’ll tell you why. I like people and all, but I think I might need a break.

I think people are going crazy. I think the human race is getting more and more bizarre, emotions are taking on epic proportions and we’re going to kill each other, one fender-bender road-rage incident at a time.

Lately, I’ve been bowled over by how much anger people have. We don’t just have opinions, we have opinions, goddamnit! We want to scream them and jab our fingers in people’s faces and speak between clenched teeth and pound on the steering wheel, as if that will allow the anger to surge out of us and not lead to an early death from heart disease.

It’s your money and you need it now? Yeah, well, it really isn’t your money - not yet anyway - and screaming out of a window into the ‘hood only makes the rest of us angry. If I go hermit, the TV definitely goes off.

Fortunately I friended the Dalai Lama, otherwise some days my Facebook wall would be all rants.

I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve gotten to be overly opinionated, from how the air conditioning blows on me in restaurants to how sucky the political climate is right now. And god forbid there’s a mistake in my cable bill or my flight is delayed. Being a crank used to be reserved for old people suffering from constant discomfort and confusion; also New Yorkers. Now, being mad is just part of an average day for average people.

We are horrible to each other. Parents neglect and damage their children, men hit their wives, kids are abused by their priests and scout leaders, co-workers are out to get each other. Middle school kids are barely getting through a normal day for all the bullying, and being gay is only the tip of the iceberg. More middle school kids contemplate suicide and only the lucky few are getting counseling. I have a friend who made a cryptic remark that makes me believe that her husband is abusive. This is an educated, professional, darling woman and it was a shock to me to even consider that might be happening. But it does happen, all the time. At the hands of a fellow human being.

We are just horrible to each other. And that’s just people who are like us. Start considering how we treat people of other races, other religious beliefs, from other nations.

This conclusion came to me after watching the video of a guy in Lexington, Kentucky, pushing his foot down on a activist at a Rand Paul appearance. She was pulled and pushed to the ground and then a man placed his foot on her head-neck-shoulder area and gave it a push. I watched the video and I let out a little gasp. To have that much anger toward someone whom you just found out is on opposite sides of a political issue, to stomp your foot down on top of her . . . we are horrible to one another.

It reminded me of a high school soccer game a few years ago, where I watched a player for a Christian school kick one of our players as he lay on the ground.

When did Christians get so angry? WWJD? Well, I can tell you for sure what He wouldn’t do - He wouldn’t kick and stomp people. I doubt there’d even be a whole lot of shouting or mean anonymous online commenting. I think overturning those tables in the temple was a one-time thing.

The Lutherans I grew up with were happy-to-be-here type people. When I used to hear the word “Christian,” it would conjure up the faces of the people in the pews of my church. When they weren’t in church they were giving rides to old people, making coffee for a church supper, or going to Bible study or choir practice. Who had time to get mad?

And it wasn’t just Lutherans. The Catholic priest who married my husband and I, Father Rich, was giving us advice on how to fill out a questionnaire in our pre-wedding counseling. “Just be nice like you are,” he said. My husband and I have often repeated that line, as well as other Father Rich-isms in the 27 years since.

I’m sorry to say that I think we’ve moved far away from that philosophy. I think we could all stand to step back, take a deep breath, and be nice like we are. I’ll start, by not complaining about the lawn workers who blocked my driveway yesterday and how the air conditioning blew on me badly at Panera last night. You follow, by friending the Dalai Lama.

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