Someone very close to me told me the other day that I came back from my cross country bike ride a nicer person. Before I could thank her for that compliment, she said, “but now you’ve become mean again.”
I was really hurt by the comment. I didn’t respond. Instead I went silent and took time to contemplate her statement. Sometimes, often times, the people around us see things that we overlook about ourselves. I took this to perhaps be one of those times. After thinking about it for a day or so, I realized that she was right. I was mean again. I had lost that connection with the moment that I’d enjoyed during my 45 day trek across the country.
Just as importantly, I had begun to reflect what was coming to me from others. People caught up in their day-to-day activities aren’t as nice to one another as people having an unusual experience. When I rode across the country, I became an unusual experience for everyone I encountered. They responded with kindness and generosity. I didn’t exchange harsh words with another individual during my entire trip. Now that I’m back, my interaction with others is no longer unusual. I’m part of their routine. As such, they treat me with the same ambivalence as the other people they encounter.
After being the catalyst for kindness, I took this routine treatment as aggression and responded with aggression. The end result was a cycle of meanness that was unintentional. I started paying more attention to the present moment. I started making every interaction I had special, unusual. Not surprisingly, I stopped feeling aggression from the people around me. If you find a way to get into the present moment, every interaction is unusual and the people around you respond to that.