There is a quote I strive to live my life by. “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” (There is great debate as to who this quote should be attributed to and since I can’t even pretend to know anything about philosophy, past being forced to read Plato in undergrad, I shall let sleeping dogs lie.) I am not always so successful at being nice to everyone, but I keep trying. Today I was reminded just how important this quote really is, not just for the sake of being a nice person, but to prevent yourself from looking like an ass. This may be the only time I am actually grateful to have been on the receiving end of being treated poorly.
Working at the front desk of a small yoga studio offers endless sources of amusement from the regulars who always have bizarre stories about what they are doing with their lives to the new people who ask strange questions and make weird requests. It also has a perk that is unique from other jobs I have had, people tend to be kind. There are the few impatient jerks, but they are mild and usually in a much better mood after they have emerged from class. To date, I know I’m jinxing it, I have only been treated like absolute shit by one person. She has gone out of her way to make it known that I am a lowly receptionist and she is far better than I am. Only, she has failed in making me feel bad about myself and succeeded in making me feel bad for her. It is clear that she is miserable in her life and the only way she can express this or release all of the crap she holds in is by making other people feel inferior. I am generally pretty unresponsive to her, I fear what might come out of my mouth if I actually attempted to engage with her in any way. Up until today, this unresponsiveness has tamed the way she treats me. She is far from nice, but she is, let us say, cordial in the way she looks down upon me.
Today this woman just happened to come for the morning yoga class I was teaching. I was behind the desk checking everyone in, where she is accustomed to seeing me, and had a brief interaction with her as she inquired about the number of classes she had left on her class card. I could see she was trying very hard to be cordial to me, not a good morning for her. When everyone was checked in and settled onto their mats in the studio I walked to the front of the room, sat down, and introduced myself. The look of shock on this woman’s face was priceless. Welcome to your Sunday morning yoga class where the woman you have been treating like shit for the past two months will now be instructing you…have fun.
As I watched her body move I discovered what I had already known, she is truly uncomfortable in her own skin. She cannot let go. She needs to find someone, anyone, other than herself, to blame for the things that do not go well in her life. She placed her mat way too close and directly behind someone else even though there was plenty of space. After the first five minutes of class she grabbed her mat and moved over so she could have more space, but not without glaring and sighing at the other woman. I actually witnessed her look around the room accusingly at the women who were able to do one of the more difficult poses she struggled with. Her breath was shallow and she could not ground herself. Her stomach and chest were so puffed up and stiff I felt anxious and tense watching her for more than a few seconds. I decided to spend time adjusting her with as much kindness and love as I could muster. As I helped her lengthen and deepen certain poses the pain and hurt she was holding became palpable. I deepened my breathing and released my own tension as I used my body to aid her practice in the hopes that her body would be able to follow suit. Suddenly, all the times she had been rude and demeaning to me no longer mattered. I became fully aware of just how great her battle is, and just how much kindness she needs.