A Work In Progress – At Sea

November 12th, 2008

Started this piece today, based on a drawing from my sketchbook. I rather like the way the sky is coming out so far. Right now, I'm letting it dry before I carry on with it. I'll do some more work on it tomorrow I suspect. There tend to be certain symbols that pop up in my work regularly. Right now, it seems that birds, water, ships, and women are coming up a lot. Trees and houses are also common, as are lanterns and the moon. I think of them as personal yet, universal symbols relating to my sense of spirituality. I try and explain a bit where my imagery comes from, but I love it when people are able to find their own story in the images.

Today in Soul Coaching we're looking at our relationships with others. I don't usually interact with many people during the day, but today I happened to be doing some errands and had an odd experience at the post office. When I walked in, the door you'd normally enter through was locked, but a woman was on her way out and opened it for me while saying she didn't know why it was locked. Once inside, I heard the postal worker behind the counter get annoyed with a man who asked politely for a zip code. The customer made a smart comment back and then softened it afterward. It was a little tense. I was next in line with a couple people behind me, but I could see a man with a pile of boxes in his arms trying to get in through the locked door. I left my place in line to open the door for him. The woman behind me decided I'd lost my place in line and moved ahead and started getting helped when the postal worker suddenly got steaming mad, shouting that the door was locked for a reason and then he rolled his eyes as he stormed out to put a box in front of the locked door.

I was a little taken aback by his reaction and at first I wanted to react defensively, apologizing for opening the door while explaining that the man's hands were full and he needed assistance. I also thought about suggesting that he might want to put a sign on the door saying "please use the other door," so that people would understand the regular entrance door was out of order. Having it locked with no further instruction was confusing. But when I got up to the front of the line, I didn't say anything. I acted polite and was conscious of trying to be kind to a man who looked very flustered and unhappy. I can't know what's going on in this man's life, but he always seems unhappy whenever I visit this particular post office branch. I decided being kind to him was the way I was going to react.

After the fact, I wondered if I had just wussed out of a confrontation, if it would have in fact been helpful to me and him if I'd made the suggestion about putting a note on the door. I wondered if I would have been able to say it without getting defensive (probably not without a few minutes to breathe and prepare) and I wondered whether or not it would have been welcomed advice when the man behind the counter seemed very perturbed. It felt o.k. to let it go and treat him with kindness, but I wonder if it would have been better to say something. What do you think?

This is such a small event, nothing major. But it is telling about my relationships with people. Denise Linn, the author of Soul Coaching suggests noticing how your interactions with others might reflect the way you were treated growing up, how it might mirror qualities you suppress, or how it might reflect your core values. Growing up, anger was not a welcome emotion. It's also in my nature to be a bit of a peace-keeper and considering the mood of the postal worker, it didn't seem like it was a good time to make a suggestion, even one that was practical. Interestingly, I also had a dream this week where I was so mad that I was yelling (something I rarely if ever do.) In this case, I think it was appropriate to let it go and move on, but I think it was also symbolic of pattern in which I say nothing under the guise of choosing my battles, not making waves, and being polite. It made me think about how in the future I might want to say, in a non-defensive way, what's on my mind.

I did pat myself on the back though for not taking it personally. The post office worker did yell at me and roll his eyes in my general direction. He didn't yell in my face, but to the room in general, but since I was the offending person opening the door, I knew that it was at least somewhat directed at me. In the past, I might have felt awful about that. I've always been sensitive to yelling, it just seems to set me off (usually into tears.) But today, I felt a little surprised, but calm and curious too. And I knew it wasn't about me, so it didn't feel like a personal attack.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting that this happened today with the focus being on relationships. I had a long chat with the hubster about it when he got home and I'm a bit talked out, so I'll end this here. See y'all tomorrow!

15 Responses

What an interesting set of observations (about yourself and about others). I’ll be curious to see what meaning about yourself you might uncover in all of it.

I would be as you were, torn between alerting the clerk about the benefits of a sign, and just beaming love&light at him …

Oh my…I’ve lost my Creative Everyday….pic and link to put on my blog when I changed my look. please help! About the PO personnel…totally unprofessional and I believe my postal inspector sister in law would not have liked that. I’m so behind on reading my fav. blogs so I’m in for a treat tonight going through this one :)

i think you handled that po situation very well leah. i think i probably would have done the same thing, and then gone out the door say, “oh, i should have said this, or I should have said that,” when really saying something other than a genuine wish like “i hope your day gets better” probably would have come off wrong anyway. who knows! maybe even saying i hope you day gets better would come off wrong. as you said, we never know what other people who cross our paths are going through.

great piece! i absolutely love love love the sky and the waves, especially how they come together. the subtle shadows and color variations in the waves are very cool. i can’t wait to see it finished!

mmmmm i would be torn as well… with the whole post office clerk. i think my reaction would depend on my mood and what type of day i would be having. some days i would just send him kindness and zip it. but others days… i might have a total opposite reaction. but i think the road that you took, sending him kindness, was probably the best. most peaceful. hopefully that kind energy helped him through his day. because who knows what was up… right???

have a fabulous friday!!!

I think people who work for the post office have a different kind of stress level that they deal with – it seems very rarely do I see a happy postal worker – if you felt calm and at peace about how you handled things then you did right!!!
Love the piece you are working on – it almost looks like material you cut up and used for the skies..very cool effect!

maybe your peaceful reaction caused him to go home and think about how he was.. maybe your peaceful attitude made him feel peaceful too… like a ripple effect.

it is always difficult to be nice to people.. sometimes I feel like flying off the handle and I do.. but I am trying harder each day to look at my reactions differently.

I remember a few years ago, while doing yet another self help book.. it said to smile at all those you met that day.. I did that and one woman said to me ‘what the hell are you smiling at?’ – had to laugh.. I knew exactly what she meant.

Yah, I think you did the right thing. It’s interesting that you felt kind of guilty because you wondered that you may have “wussed out of a confrontation”. I think confrontations are over-rated. They generally result in the confronter feeling vindicated and powerful, which may not be a bad thing, but in the process a lot of unnecessary stress is created.
You chose to overcome evil with good. Good for you. That man, and the other people in the post office, may remember your small act of kindness (or not)and that might help them to overlook another person’s bad behaviour.

I’m glad you shared that story – it lets me know I’m not the only one who (over?)thinks such situations. :) And I think responding with kindness is almost always a good idea, even though it’s not always easy.

I love your artwork in progress, Leah!

Interesting experience at the post office. At one stage, I would have taken it personally and carried ‘it’ around with me like a heavy burden for the rest of the day…….however, since reading Eckhart Tolle’s books and now, Soul Coaching, I would have probably done what you did.

love, light and peace,

I probably would have said something. I think peace is best and honestly, I like it when things go smoothly and everyone plays nice with each other. But, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, I think we’ve (society) gotten to the point when we just “allow” people to act like jerks because we don’t want to confront them or have a fight or upset others or whatever. I see that as the push – let it go, kill them with kindness, not tell them that their behavior is unacceptable to everyone around them. But then again, I’m a wolf’y kind of woman. Wolves are very peacefull by nature, they avoid fights when they can, but they also will kick your butt if you bother them enough.

Now, all that being said. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to act. You have to be true to you. And I believe that you were. Plus, some people just don’t get it, no matter how many times you tell them that their behavior is hurtfull. So, it’s not worth the energy or the upset to your own system.

You’re right, perhaps this guy is sick or has a sick wife or child. Perhaps he’s losing his home or he’s worried about money or his job. Perhaps he’s just a grump. We need grumps in this world too ~ if they weren’t here, we wouldn’t be able to know ourselves as “not grumpy.” ;)

Here’s to hoping your future visits to the post office are more peaceful!


Hi Leah ! Your ocean piece is coming along so beautifully ! I love the presense of the woman, rising up over chaos. Kind of like you did today, huh ?

I think it is amazing that you were able to keep your cool, protect yourself from the anger darts going around, and send genuine kindness towards this guy who must have really needed that !

I am still trying to figure out what to do with anger too. Don’t want to deny it, don’t what to hurt others, don’t want to swallow it, and don’t want to direct it towards myself (my biggest MO in the end !!!). Maybe just acknowledging it and then re-directing it’s energy into something positive (like sending kindness) is the way to go…Sure ain’t always easy though, is it ????
The universe is sure sending your some interesting lessons !
Cheers !

leah, your sailboat makes me wish i could get on it and sail away to a sunny island. it is raining in dc today. so the sailboat would do me good. your observations about what happened with the postal worker and folks in the post office made me think of how we each have a choice to use our reactive mind or responsive mind. Our reactive mind is the one that just responds without thinking. If I am happy, my reactive mind moves up. If I am unhappy, my reactive mind moves down. I am a puppet on the end of strings… moving based on my emotions. For me that’s the part of me that can get me into trouble. My reactive mind fails to use wisdom and discernment. My responsive mind is the part of me that takes a deep breath before responding. It allows me to witness what is going on around me. I am able to hold all emotions and experiences in my body, mind, spirit, heart, and breath. My responsive mind allows me to be still. It gives me balance so that when I do respond to people and experiences, I do so from a place of peace. It is a journey I am still taking.

I think you handled the situation good. One might have wanted to say something nasty back or like you say post a note that could have come out nasty sounding, but they might have just made it worse and quite frankly my motto is.. “When a ‘fool’ opens his mouth he removes all doubt”. and EVERYONE in that post office had no DOUBT about that postman. How kind you were to the man with the packages and the fool. :) )

I would have reacted exactly the same way as you did, and it is only in hindsight that we can come up with the perfect response, but maybe it would have been better to demonstrate to the postal worker a more appropriate way of dealing with the door by offering to post a sign to the door saying it was out of order, if he would kindly print it for you…. People in such crappy jobs usually hate their jobs, and don’t have great coping skills either, so any little thing makes them angry instead of dealing with the problem and putting it aside. Offering to help by taking the sign over to the door and taping it on for him might have given him an example of how to deal with the broken door appropriately, and also would have brightened his day.

Remember, I would have done EXACTLY what you did, but it seemed like a good idea to take a more proactive approach on reflection.

It’s so interesting that each moment gives us opportunities to learn about ourselves, each other, the world. It’s one of the things I just love about life :)

To me, it sounds like you made a deliberate and conscious decision to be kind and that’s not at all wuss out. That you are asking the question would make me think there’s some value in considering, “where in my life do I wuss out”?

I bet we’d all come up with interesting answers to that one. I know I’m wussing out when my heart’s pounding and I’m feeling the need to say something, and I sit on it.

Thank you for sharing the moment :)

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