I like to spend my New Year reflecting. Sometimes it happens on New Year's Eve. Other times on New Year's Day. This year, I worked both days, so it came just a little later. Thankfully, I had something happen yesterday that reminded me to reflect.
It is New Year's Day, and I am working. I also worked Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. It's fine as I don't really celebrate the holidays all that much, and I would prefer to give folks who do celebrate the holidays the day off. Plus, it is only about a half day anyway. I will be out by 3ish.
A man in his 20s walks into the cafe. He is chatting loudly on his cell phone as he walks up to the register. It's busy, and I am trying to catch up on some cleaning. He continues to increase the volume of his phone conversation so everyone can hear him. It is something inane, and something others do not really want to hear about.
I stare hoping he gets the message to bring the volume down just a tad. He doesn't. Instead, the volume continues. He is obviously excited about something, which I cannot begin to make out even though he is clearly talking loud enough for me to hear the entirety of his side of the conversation.
He hangs up the phone, looks directly at me, and says, "I simply asked my mother for some grammar advices on something I wrote and all she can say is, 'It's lovely darling.' I mean, COME ON! You cannot count on your mother for honest advice about ANYTHING."
"Mmm...hmmm," I reply as I continue wiping down tables. "Can I get you anything?"
He loudly paces across the cafe picking everything up and then setting it back down. His hands act as if they NEED to touch everything, as if he needs to mark his territory like a male cat.
I swing behind the counter and saunter up to the register thinking that maybe being on the other side might make him place his order. "So, how can I help you," I ask.
"Really, can you believe it," he continues. "Mothers! They want to be supportive but don't know how."
"Mmm...hmmm....," I reply. "Would you like a coffee?"
He picks up items he has already examined as if something new would reveal itself upon picking it up a second time.
"You see, I am a very religious Jew, so asking me if I want coffee is complicated. I mean I cannot have both milk and meat at the same time, and I am thinking that tonight I would like to eat some beef. That means I can't have a milk based drink right now. Like I said, my diet is incredibly complicated."
"Ok," I reply knowing that all people have very complicated food "issues". This is nothing new for me, so I offer, "Well, there are lots of options if you need any suggestions please let me know."
"Like I said, I am religious Jew, so if you don't know all the nuances of eating Kosher, I am not sure that you would be able to help. I mean there are rules to my eating that I have to follow."
"Ok. Well, since you know what they are, is there anything I can get for you?" I smile despite the complete waste of time he is creating.
He picks the pacing back up again this time almost to the point of bumping in to other customers. "Well," he continues, "It all depends on what I want to eat for dinner. I need to make that decision so that I can figure out what I am going to do right now. So let me think about that for a moment."
He proceeds to think out loud letting me hear his debate about dinner and whether or not he is going to eat out or make something, whether he is going to have only vegetables or have some meat as well. This monologue becomes louder than the conversation with his mother.
"Well, let me know if I can help you out with anything," I say as I move away from the register to get back to doing some of the cleaning that needs to be done.
"Oh wait," he yells. "I know! I have figured out dinner."
"Ok. So what can I get for you today?"
"Nothing," he responds. "Have a great new year." He then prances out of the cafe.
In the moment, I was incredibly frustrated. I wanted nothing more than to celebrate the new year with graciousness, and the manifestation of this man's unchecked privilege irked me. It tested my ability to be gracious. Instead, I found myself drawing on the depths of my "Minnesota nice", which really means sarcasm and passive agressiveness done with a smile. There is nothing gracious about it.
Most see "Minnesota nice" as pleasant. They get confused by the smile and warm eyes. They don't understand the nuance of tone or the fact that the warm eyes symbolize the pits of anger rather than the warmth of a campfire. But I do know all about "Minnesota nice". I was raised there.
So I know that beneath my veneer of nicety, I was not being very gracious. I was not starting out the new year the way I wanted to. It left me feeling a little dissonant without really understanding why.
As I reflect, I now understand the dissonance: there was a mismatch between who I want to be and who I was in that moment.
We all have these moments. We all have times when the person we want to be is not the person that we are.
It is in these moments that reflection becomes crucial. We must hit the pause button and look not at others but at our selves. We must find where the dissonance is and ask, "who am I; who do I want to be; are they the same person?"
Upon doing so, I am realizing that I could do better in listening to the stories of all people. For decades, I have found myself honoring and listening to those who have been historically marginalized. I get frustrated and angry at the behaviors of people whom I perceive to be privileged. I make quick assumptions about a person based on their immediate behaviors, especially behaviors exhibited by the customer mentioned above.
My resolution for 2013, though I am normally loathe to do so, is to become more gracious, to hit the pause button more, and to continue to align who I want to be with who I am.
I have learned, especially recently in regards to the growing polarization here in the United States, that we need more people to hit the pause button and reflect. We need to see people not as the behaviors they exhibit. Rather, we need to model the behaviors we wish to embody.
I opened Facebook momentarily amidst writing this post. The post at the top was by my friend Starr Britt. Here is what it said:
"Jesus said 'the meek shall inherit the earth.'
"Meek: The aligned, non-agitated, non-resistant, the patient, the mild, submissive, moderate, those who stay in there own lane, those who find unconditional love in all and are grateful for the gift of life. #beeasy #stayfocused"
In my moment of pause while typing, I came face to face with who I want to be, and I will carry this with me through 2013.