“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” Rumi
Have you ever noticed how patterns in life will keep repeating until we finally “get it”? For me this was never as apparent as when my family and I moved to another city, far far away. I left behind a lot of great friends, but also a few toxic relationships and I was ready for a nice, shiny, new start.
Imagine my surprise when the exact same toxic relationships showed up, disguised as other people. It was nearly comical, the week I started my new job and began to see the character traits blooming. Oh wow. Shirley is my new Back Stabbing Dawn. Jake is my new Lascivious Larry. And OH NO Clarissa is clearly my new Angry Annie. WTF, Universe? I thought I had left those problems behind and yet here they were again, only this time even bigger caricatures of their predecessors. Where Dawn had been sneaky and sly in her back stabbing, Shirley was openly mean. Where Larry had been subtle with his advances, Jake was a creepy octopus. And Clarissa’s dark cloud of wrath made Angry Annie seem like a ray of sunshine.
Recognizing the repeating patterns was my first step in breaking these toxic relationships that kept developing in my world. Once the pattern was recognized I was able to determine what lesson this person/relationship was here to teach. Why did these annoying people keep showing up? If I could just figure out what part of me they were polishing, maybe I could get the rubbing to stop.
I have come to realize that being a people pleaser, I tend to attract those inch/mile people who have no sense of boundaries. So I set some boundaries. I learned to calmly, gently but firmly speak my mind and even realized that “No” is a complete sentence. Personal growth in leaps and bounds, right? Now those annoying boundary pushers would leave me alone. Lesson learned… let’s move on.
But no. Seems the same “types” are still finding me, and it seems with each new representative they have become ever more extreme in their behaviors. I continue to set my boundaries, but they keep showing up, leaping the fence, rubbing up against me until I am raw from their incessant polishing.
So what? Were there more lessons to learn? And if so, what could they be? Bigger boundaries? Going on the offensive, being rude? Ending relationships? Becoming a hermit?
Getting still and silent one day, I heard the whisper of wisdom. Speaking my truth and setting boundaries was one lesson. But the true lesson went far beyond. The cold hard truth was that I was being judgmental. If somebody wasn’t fitting within the sterile parameters of my idea of what was acceptable, I was shutting them out. Ouch. Truth bomb.
The true, spiritual lesson was that I needed to break down my own barriers and build a sanctuary of acceptance. Maybe the Annie’s, Larry’s and others simply had a different sense of what was proper, socially acceptable behavior than I had. Being different did not make them wrong. Maybe my feelings of discomfort came because they were here to help me to stop keeping myself detached from life. Maybe the real lesson was to love, unconditionally, in real and tangible ways and not just talk about it. Maybe – just maybe – I needed to walk the talk…live the talk, and break down the barriers I had built between me and my true Self.
My new practice is simple. I accept whoever comes my way. If they are angry, petty or gossip, I don’t react, but send them loving kindness. I respond with gentleness and quiet acceptance and the results have been nearly miraculous. The people who have come to polish my mirror reflect to me the things about myself that I have hidden away, secret shames and fears. At first these relationships taught me how to have a better human experience. Now they teach me how to have a better spiritual experience. They shine and polish my mirror so that I can be the clear, divine love that I am meant to be.
And when they finally gaze into the mirror that they have helped to polish, they too get a glimpse of their eternal nature as I reflect back to them their own light.