My friend M.* tells a story:
A mutual friend, an older member of our church congregation*, keeps an incredibly beautiful garden, the envy of their neighborhood. When people from our congregation or from their neighborhood are struggling, this generous, kindly man often just shows up and prunes hedges, mows lawns, and tends to their yard work. So M. was talking to him one day, seeking gardening tips.
“How do you keep everything looking so beautiful?” she asked. “I mean, your garden doesn’t even have any weeds!”
He looked at her. “I weed,” he said.
* * *
A fundamental element of my religious faith is a belief that God speaks to us – generally in response to questions, but sometimes just because we need to know something. We take seriously dreams, impressions, promptings, and confirming feelings of peace.
And so I’m feeling compelled to share with you, dear reader, a dream I had last night.
There is a particular individual* who has been a burr under my saddle for years. He’s a nasty human being with whom I am forced to interact because he lives nearby, and we happen to be involved in a couple of the same organizations. (Deleting rant here about appalling things this individual does...because my husband is nicer than me and thinks I'm being mean-spirited.) Anyway, it has come to the point where, whenever this individual drives by, I smile and wave just because I know it torques him off. (So basically, I’m just as evil and malicious as he is.)
Last night I dreamed that I was sitting at a picnic table with a friend, and he walked past and made a nasty remark. Last straw. I decided to finally stand up and confront him. “Why do you act this way?” I shouted. “What is wrong with your soul, that you can’t behave civilly toward another human being? Do you have no idea of the damage and hurt you’re causing?”
He just sneered, and kept walking.
I sat down in frustration.
Then, the jerk of my dreams did something even more shocking. He turned around, came back, and sat down across the picnic table from me. He looked me dead in the eyes and said “I have a major problem. I’m a Twinkie* addict, and it makes me miserable. I can’t stop eating Twinkies. I hate myself, and I hate my life.”
Then I (understanding soul that I am) Nancy Reagan’ed him: “So stop.”
He narrowed his eyes. “What?”
“Just stop it. Quit. Give it up.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“That’s how it works for me. I quit eating cooked food. I just stopped.”
“It’s a choice. You can do whatever you decide to do. Just stop.”
At which point, I woke up – probably just before he punched me in the nose.
This morning, I’m strangely filled with compassion for the guy. I still dislike him. And I don’t know whether or not he’s actually a Twinkie addict. But clearly, he has some sort of poisonous problem that cankers his soul and causes him to believe that being a jerk is a functional way to approach life.
And point number two, which is probably of more interest to readers than my weirdly changed attitude toward a man who causes me grief:
If you believe you’re a person who can’t make positive changes in your life, you’re short-changing yourself. You already do things better than lots of people do. You get up every morning and drag yourself to work. Lots of people don’t. You take a shower every day, even if you hate getting your head wet. Many people don’t. You clean your kitchen. You stop yourself from playing video games, or looking at porn, or eating the entire leftover birthday cake. If you do anything right, you can do one more thing right: Pull those weeds. Stop doing whatever destructive thing stands between you and your more-perfect self.
Just say no.
Nancy Reagan thanks you.
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* All individuals (or addictive substances) described in this blog are fictional. Any resemblance to living people, awesome or horrible, is purely coincidental. Unless you know who you are. But I’m still maintaining that you’re a fictional invention.
Today's soundtrack brought to you by The Cranberries: Dreams.