The presence of lessons and eternal mirrors

“It isn’t all about you.”

We’ve all heard that line.

Or, the sarcastic: “yeah, it’s all about YOU, isn’t it?”

The message is that I am supposed to think about others, have regard for their feelings, some empathy and sympathy for what might be happening in their lives, and that nothing is all about me.

Or is it?

Is there a metaphysical existence where I perceive everything as reflecting my presence in the world? In this existence, life takes every opportunity to define itself by reflecting the nature of its creator.

That little proposition is easy to take on when one is out in “nature” defined by glorious trees, dazzling mountains, endless horizons of flowered meadows, and Bambi chewing clover by the river. It’s a little harder when one is hustling “nature” the day after New Year’s chasing down the after-Christmas sales at the local ginormous nationwide superstore which is where I happened upon my most recent soul-opening exercise.

At said nameless store, ever hopeful for a stay-at-home snow day, I placed two 15-pound cartons of snowmelt in my cart and proceeded to checkout. At the checkout counter, I unloaded all of my items, including the 15-pound cartons of snowmelt on to the conveyor belt. As the cashier swept the snowmelt cartons across the scanner, she said, “Next time just leave the heavy items in your cart and I will scan them from there.” She didn’t look happy while she said it.

It took me a moment to realize what she said. I finally asked, “So, you think those are heavy?”

She responded by saying “If you have to lift them all day long, they get real heavy.” She was not smiling when she said this.

All sorts of responses went through my head – statements about how there are no signs about leaving heavy items in the cart, what qualifies as heavy, pointed remarks about how this was the job she had chosen and if she didn’t like it . . ., and one really super retort about how I was contributing to helping her prevent osteoporosis, but fortunately none of THOSE came out. What I said was: “Thank you for pointing that out to me. I learned something today.”

I did not tell her what I learned because I had not yet figured it out. At that time, I was mostly thinking that whatever her problem was, it had nothing to do with me and was all about her disliking what she did for a living. And, I thanked her because I made a mental note to self: “never work at Nameless Nationwide Superstore as a cashier.”

But then I came home and read my e-mail. My friend, Deborah Hart Yemm, from A New Gaia and blog Gazing in the Mirror, had sent me this poem written by Rumi:

You have no idea how hard I’ve looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What’s the point of bringing gold
to the gold mine, or water to the ocean.

Everything I came up with was like
taking spices to the Orient.

It’s no good giving my heart and my
soul because you already have these.

So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

It is like God said “no, this IS about YOU.”

I am that cashier and she is me. Just as she has to own her suffering, I must own mine. Just as I seek my soul’s happiness in the world, so must she.

She cannot order me to alleviate her suffering anymore than I can demand that the world relieve mine. She cannot complain her way into happiness anymore than I can.
Barbara L. Kass


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9 Responses to “The presence of lessons and eternal mirrors”

  1. Ann Marquette Says:

    Good post Barbara. As I read this though I thought of past experiences in the work world…about the perceived attitudes of others and even my own. Something I learned and I try to remember when I am not so happy about someone else’s lack of good service or good attitudes. I know in some cases they may hate their job, but in many cases the person may not be feeling well (physically, mentally, emotionally). It is possible they had something horrible happen in their life…a recent death of loved one, a divorce, someone close very sick, etc. In some cases I have asked, in a caring tone “are you ok?” Most of the time the person will smile and say they are “why?” I might say they seemed sad or something like that. Turns out they just had their mind on something else. Then all is well and they are happier because someone cared.

    This is also a case of looking in the mirror. How many times have we might not had a happy look on our faces and been mistaken for being in a bad mood. So I try to remember.

  2. ntexas99 Says:

    “She cannot complain her way into happiness any more than I can.”

    I especially heard that part of the story. I like to tell myself that I am a positive person, or that I make an effort to interact with others in a way that might bring something positive into their day, but when I stop for a moment and really look into the mirror, what I often see is someone who wears the word sad as if it were desirable finery, meant to be shared with everyone. I’m nothing, if not generous.

    True story – I was once at an office gathering in which they were using various exercises to break the ice. One such exercise was that everyone was to write down only one word to describe the person next to them. All the words went into a bucket, and as each word was pulled from the bucket, the group would guess which word belonged to which person. Mine was the only word that everyone guessed right. The word was Despondent.

    In a room full of Dependable, Jubilant, Enthusiastic, Motivated, Organized, Effective, Entertaining, and Industrious, there was only one person in the room that wore the word Despondent. Which wasn’t to say I wasn’t also some of the other words, but the fact that every single person in the room guessed me as the person that matched the word Despondent really opened my eyes.

    Up until that time, I really believed my pain was mostly invisible to others. Apparently, not so much. So then I made the mistake of learning how to hide my pain, when what I really should have been working at was learning how to release my pain. It took me years to realize that my pain was the most comfortable garment in my closet. Without it, sometimes I feel naked, so it’s been quite difficult to learn how to leave the house without it, but I’m attempting to be a good student in all things. Including the ability to look in the mirror.

    This was a really good way to begin the New Year, so thanks for sharing this with us today. I’m in a bit of a drift right now, and it’s always encouraging to find something substantial that can help anchor me in place for a moment or two. Give me something true to consider, that might help move me a step or two down the path. Appreciate you taking the time to put it down on paper, (in the digital sense), so that we can all share in what you’ve seen. 🙂

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Nancy — it is always good to hear your story, especially the part about hiding your pain, instead of learning how to release it — a mirror that many people are hiding behind and refuse to look into. I know my lesson today was that expecting other people to change their behavior is the wrong place to look for my happiness.

  3. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Barbara — You have no idea (zero, zip, nada) how much this post means to me today. “Timely” would be a vast understatement. THANK YOU!

  4. Kathy Says:

    Oh I am glad to have discovered this today! Yes, we have so much to learn. Yes, your story takes us back to what’s “real” and not the stories our mind spins.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kathy — you inspired me to read this all over again and I kept thinking “who wrote this?” Reading your blog prompts me again to go into the undiscovered country I am growing into.

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