On the one-to-ten Scale of NICENESS, where do you live? Are you nice to some people and not nice to others? Are you nice to yourself? What IS being nice?
I’ll admit it. I’m not that nice of a guy. A lot of people think I’m nice and many times I am. But too many times I fall short. It’s bad when my wife’s in the room while I’m angry at everything, having fallen again into a mood swing. I try to hide them. I’m not good at it. They creep up and snatch me down. Then I bark. And worse, I even wake up feeling down, like dirty, damp, stinky laundry. Even when it’s sunny and my adoring wife is smiling at me, I’ll feel like stinky laundry.
Crazy, isn’t it! I’m not happy when there’s nothing to worry about. I’m retired for God’s sake! I plan my days. NO pressure! And I still find things to get upset about, which turns Nice into NOT nice – to myself and to others. Why?
Could it be I’m frustrated? Sure, lots of times. But why is that? Why am I rarely happy with myself? Do you ask yourself that same question?
I’m not sure what starts what. Do spontaneous feelings about failing bring me down? Or do real and tangible missteps happen first, which dumps me into downer feelings? To complicate it further, it doesn’t take much for me to re-label a GAIN into a LOSS. Whatever I do, I’m always left feeling I coulda done it better! I’m glad I’m not always thinking this way. It’s exhausting.
I’m glad when they pass. I then work really hard to be nice again. I do nice things, like become the morning waiter for my wife’s coffee-in-bed service. But even when I’m volunteering to do nice things, I’m still intolerant and impatient inside, about everything, targeting myself first.
My inability to accept anything less than excellence, all the time – THAT is what sucks the NICE out of me. And sure, I do settle for less, but I’m not happy about it.
With more free time I’ve been wondering lately, am I a depression case? Am I bi-polar? I don’t think so. But I AM hungry for those occasional moments when happiness drifts into my heart. It mostly happens when I’m close to reaching my goals, all ultimately unobtainable. I set the bar really high. And once I reach it, I raise it again.
As I said, I want to excel. I want to be the smartest guy in the room. I want to be the dude who solves the problems first and makes it better for everyone else. And I suppose that’s okay. Over-achievers, or potential over-achievers like me, push ourselves to improve and hopefully contribute a little more “good” to the world.
But my frustrations get in the way of that. I loose hope too soon if things don’t happen fast enough. I’m not an optimist. I wish I were. But I am persistent. I keep pushing ahead. Have to. Every disappointment needs a win to balance my self-esteem.
If I’m painting a picture of Really Messed Up, I don’t come off that way. People think I’m confident ‘cause I try really hard to be. My quirks are subtle to all but my wife. And for her sake, I’ve managed to stay nice enough and kind enough to make her happy. And that makes me happy.
So why and how did I turn out to be a perfectionist? I probably came into the world that way. Actually I DID, and now I have to manage it. It’s difficult for me to deal with disorganized minds. I want to barrel past the bullshit and get to core truths. I want to be efficient and clear about my ideas and intentions. And I want everyone else to be that way too. Why? Because I’ve had this lingering notion that the world would be a better place if we all communicated better and TOLD THE TRUTH! How naive.
I’m sixty-six and it took me all these years to figure out that telling-the-truth doesn’t help that much. Actually, debating “truth” is a sizzling spark for a fiery argument. MY truth is not YOUR truth…or my wife’s truth…especially my wife’s truth. And trying to convince her that MY truth is better than HER truth does not bring me hugs and kisses.
What gets my wife and me hugging again is finally letting go of trying to reshape each other. Damn! Why do I always have to relearn that? Why can’t I relax and be nicer? Why am I still trying to retrain my wife as she struggles to retrain me? Sometimes we both succeed. Little changes happen. Most of the time we hold our ground, staying exactly who we are. I’m glad those fights for “improvement” aren’t necessary for our love and marriage. I’m glad I’m still nice enough to keep her close to me. And I’m glad I haven’t given up trying to grow. I don’t want to make my best friend feel sad and alone.
I want to stop judging too, but I don’t think that’s possible. Actually it isn’t. I’m constantly tracking my actions against everyone else’s. That’s who I am – a processor of what’s fair according to the rules which I feel everyone should follow. And yes, I know that rules are relative and that everything is shades-of-gray and constantly changing. Maybe I should stop taking score moment to moment while using myself as a benchmark to judge others.
Do you do that too? Of course you do. We all compare ourselves to everyone else.
And here’s why, at least my why. If there’s something I don’t like in myself, it’s hard to accept that same negative quality in someone I care about. It’s really about avoiding conceited double standards. If I’m trying to be fair and compromise, shouldn’t you too? If you’re reaching for excellence and we’re working together, shouldn’t I try just as hard? Shouldn’t we all strive to be better?
The big flaw in that argument is this: my BETTER is not necessarily your BETTER. We’re all different, as we should be. Evolution grows out of diversification. If everything were the same, if we all were alike, if there was no mixing and matching, nothing would improve. A given, right? No. There’s a large population that wants everyone to be just like them and kept that way.
But that is not how this Universe works. Nothing IS the same and nothing STAYS the same. Ever.
But I’m digressing. Let’s get back to feelings. Here’s the upside: When I’m feeling good about myself, I’m also feeling good about everyone else. And I bet that’s the way it is for you too.
Aren’t you more patient and tolerant when you’re feeling in charge, when you’re winning? Isn’t it easier to be nice to others when you’re not punishing yourself first? Ya know, it’s true what they say: “To love another, you must love yourself.”
I don’t know how one learns to love and accept oneself but we have to give it a shot. I think we should start by realizing we all make mistakes and it’s okay to fall down. If we don’t begin there, life will get really lonely fast. Mean frustrations will repel what’s left of our friends.
So if you’ve got a BFF or spouse who loves you in spite of yourself, don’t ever, EVER, take that loving soul for granted. And don’t stop trying to be nice to yourself, either. If you can make that happen, you’ll spread a lot of NICENESS around everywhere!
Now…if I’ll just take my own advice!