Behind the Facade, The Thirty-Third Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal
Growing up my mother and her mother were sticklers for good manners. I made a point of saying please and thank you. I was afraid they would view me as rude, and I didn’t want that moniker. My grandmother would point out other children who might have been louder than us, or publicly whiny, and she’d use those children as cautionary tails of behavior we were to stringently avoid.
I appreciate good manners. Things can be pleasurably orderly when people stick to the rules, when the rules make sense for all. And, I am always grateful for good manners. Yesterday, when I once again rode Park Avenue for Summer Streets, I made a point of thanking the police and the Department of Transportation volunteers and temp employees for being there. I was so grateful, and happy to share that gratitude. All but one smiled back, and they were nice exchanges along the beautiful ride.
I was grateful I started out early so that the roads weren’t crowded. I was grateful for the cool morning air, a rarity in August. I had filled my tires so my ride was smooth. And to those that I thanked I may have seemed nice. But lurking underneath the gratitude and manners was a highly judgmental, cranky older woman. For the day I had become an architype. I was mad that some cyclists were in the right lanes, while some runners were in the left lanes. There was clear signage. Had I not been a shaky rider, I could imagine myself raising a fist each and every time I noted an interloper. I also wasn’t pleased when motor bikes vroomed down the supposedly gas-free streets.
In hindsight I think these things scared me. I’m a tentative cyclist. I like empty roads without ruts. Smooth riding feels safer to me. If I give myself grace, I can now see that my righteous anger was a defense of my fears. And perhaps my fright isn’t specific to my bike ride. Maybe it’s global warming anxiety. Or a world in which people act out their fury in arbitrary ways. Or fear of an unknown future. Whatever the case I will do my best to ease my fears while living fully. I’ll continue to have good manners, a multigenerational practice. And I’ll check myself with care when my anger, judgment, and cantankerous nature peak out.
- When angry, check to see if the strong emotion is protecting a more vulnerable part of you. If so, see if you can soothe yourself making room and a safe space for your frailer nature.
- Challenge yourself in small ways by doing things that feel doable even if you’re a little bit afraid. It can be as small as a public bicycle ride in a busy city, stating a preference when you’re usually agreeable, or stepping out in a way right for you
- Try reading or watching a genre that is new or different for you. I came to appreciate graphic novels, even if it’s not my go to. See if you might come to understand what others see in another genre.