Speaking of mindfulness and saying things you regret, I have been working hard on not speaking ill of people. It is a constant (and I mean hourly) vocation. You know when you gossip to a friend, about a friend, and then immediately have this pang in your chest? That’s called your conscience and it’s telling you to stop doing that. It brings you down. In fact, it’s the quickest way I know of making myself miserable. I could be having the best conversation with someone, connecting, feeling common ground, getting the repartee of the give and take… all instantly eradicated when I go to that ugly place (“She said this baby was a SURPRISE?!! I don’t get when people say they don’t know how it possibly could have happened…”) Poof. Good feelings gone. And, additionally, what I’ve now done is crumbled the trust wall I’ve worked hard on building in this friendship. The person I’m sitting across from isn’t thinking, “I’m glad Iris feels comfortable enough to share her innermost thoughts about Jackie getting pregnant.” She’s thinking, “I better be careful what I tell Iris because she’s liable to judge me and talk about me to Jackie! Not to mention that Iris has been here for 2 hours… it’s really time for her to go now…”
You see what happens? You go from 80 to 0 in 3 seconds. “Not talking smack” as they say on the streets, has been a particularly tough one for me because I have three sisters who I am close with. At the end of last summer, my sister Adelaide and I had a blowout fight. We didn’t speak for 6-8 weeks—sadly, the entire time she had morning sickness with her second child and could have used a friend. Because I was so distraught over not speaking to Adelaide, I complained daily to my other sister Lucy (and probably little sister Silvia too) about not talking to Adelaide. Long story short, Lucy got all mixed up with this beast I had created, a beast appropriately named “word vomit” (from the film Mean Girls) and everything spiraled out of control. Adelaide was hurt by me, I was hurt by Adelaide, Adelaide was hurt by Lucy, Lucy was hurt by Adelaide, and Silvia was probably hurt by auxiliary damages. After Adelaide and I made up, I made the executive decision to not talk badly about a sister to a sister. It’s not easy. There are countless times every day that I might feel word vomit brewing. It takes everything I’ve got to keep the vomit down.
In the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox says to Kathleen Kelly “…I must warn you that when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.”
The human condition is to talk about humans. So what, then, are we supposed to talk about? I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’m not sure I have a foolproof solution. Talking surface-level all the time isn’t satisfying. Perhaps it’s not so much the talking about people, as the talking smack about people? So, declarations can be made (i.e. “Jackie’s having a baby”) without assigning a judgment to said declaration. Be forewarned, it’s incredibly challenging to maintain this kind of neutrality and I’m not sure neutrality is even the way to go.
And of course the owls, ever the mindful onlookers, haven’t uttered an ill word yet.
Sand & soil,