One of the best things about getting older is figuring out that I really don't know everything. It is actually a BIG relief not to know everything -- you should try it! No longer do I have to have all the answers or solve all problems or insert my ever so informed opinion into every conversation -- this creates a lot of free time and brain space!
This very odd experience of ignorance also has somehow increased my ability to be compassionate and recognize that there is usually a bigger picture hidden from me. Recently we were having a family discussion and of course, there are villains in every family story. But I found myself thinking of the villains in different ways -- of being able to articulate that maybe the usual storyline was just one way of seeing the situation, and not really the absolute truth.
Black and white thinking makes people into saints and sinners, or good guys and villains. Working with people as much as I have has taught me that when we understand someone's story, we usually can find a soft place in our heart for them. Indeed, I have found very few people who do not deserve compassion -- darn it.
It is so much easier to categorize people, ideas, actions, etc. into good and bad because we know how to respond to good and bad -- like good, hate bad. But the reality is that everyone is a saint and a sinner - all of us are a mix of good and bad, whatever that means. Our challenge is to embrace that reality, and learn to accept and love imperfect people and appreciate that their stories (and actions) usually make sense to them.
I am a villain in someone's story (as are you, no doubt) and that used to bother me - but now I accept that sometimes we need villains. A villain is useful -- it is someone we place all the complicated "blame" on -- like a scapegoat -- and in doing so we do not have to see our part in the unfortunate story -- and maybe more importantly, we can avoid acknowledging how those we have put on pedestals let us down and/or contributed to the unfortunate story.
Most of us are really not victims in our own lives -- and most people are not really villains. Of course, it is simpler to think that way -- but it just isn't accurate and I see that as I get older and know less.
So maybe the less we know, the more we know? Or maybe it is that when we recognize the limits of our knowledge, we create space for new understanding - and that new understanding creates space for increased compassion. All I know is that I appreciate the perspectives that seem to be part of getting older :)
But there are still dirty dogs in the world - as evidence, here is Cadi:
It made sense to her to take a dirt bath and I was invited to choose my response to a dog who resembled Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon when she came in the house. I could freak out and be mad -- but why? A dirt bath made her happy :) I just hustled her through the house to the deck, where the grooming table lives at the moment, reminding myself (and horrified Dear Husband) that the dust cloud she was leaving in her wake could eventually be vacuumed and wasn't toxic after all! And then I took pictures and blew the dirt off with the blow dryer -- no big deal.
Life is all about choices -- and the most important ones seem to be related to how we respond to the dirty dogs in our own lives -- including the dirty dog that lives within all of us. I suggest that we embrace the dirty dogs -- and in doing so, maybe we will find compassion and understanding not only for others, but for the parts of ourselves that need some serious blow drying...