Sometimes dating feels a lot like teaching:
You have to remind yourself that the other person doesn’t know what they don’t know.
You have to remember that when people get frustrated or act out, there’s usually something else going on for them.
You have to accept that they’re truly doing the best they can with the tools they know.
And, you have to know a few things yourself:
You have to offer alternative tools if the ones they’re using are causing harm.
You have to bring a deep patience that can require you to close your eyes and take a breath before saying any next thing.
And sometimes you just take a day off.
What all this has in common to me is that I need to care for myself while also showing up (and yes, sometimes “showing up” means leaving the room!).
I need to remember that this person in front of me, partner or student, is a child of G-d. I have to remember that I am a child of G-d. And, most critically, that we’re both doing the very best we can with the tools we have.
My very own frustration in a moment is the best that I can do. Another’s acting out in a moment is the best they can do.
I was at a workout class last night that ends in a “moment of stillness,” and the teacher asked us to close our eyes and send compassion to ourselves. She said that self-compassion is often the hardest quality or emotion to have. When I feel judgy of another person, when I want to change another person, when I want to run away from another person, I need to remember that this is just because I, too, need a little compassion for myself.
I’m feeling afraid, activated. I’m feeling a fear that I won’t be okay because another person is “not okay” at the moment. I’m feeling afraid that I can’t control a situation or a person, and that if I cannot do that — particularly if I cannot calm another person down — then none of us will be okay.
In this vein, I’ve been recalling a story my mom told me from about when I was seven or so. She was driving with me in the car and something happened with another driver on the highway, and she got apoplectic.
As the lore has it, I cautioned her then: “Mom, you’re too angry.”
She tells me this story, because she heard it. She heard that she was frightening her child. She heard that her reaction was outsized to the cause.
And in many ways, I think I’ve grown up feeling like I have to calm other people’s emotions. (As you can imagine, a middle-schooler has a lot of emotions!)
What strikes me this morning is to remember that what this person is seeking—student, parent, partner, other driver—is their own version of safety, by whatever means they know how.
Indeed, when I become frustrated or afraid, it’s only because I’m seeking safety by whatever means I know how — which has meant the belief that if others are not okay, then I’m not okay.
This … is not true.
There is a truth, and it is this: I am okay, despite what occurs around me.
I, of course, stand for no legitimately egregious guff, but I can allow what’s happening for someone else to soften around me instead of bowl me over. When others’ emotions bowl me over, I feel that I must dig in, I must close off, and I must push back against them.
None of that is true.
In moments of distress, there’s only one thing I must do: Remember that I am a child of G-d, that I am safe, that I am lovable exactly as I am. Just like everybody else.