Arrived back in London 4 days ago. Things are the same as they were when I left. It’s a bit strange feeling at home in two different parts of the world. Canada, specifically BC, is my home. It’s where I was born, and where most of my friends and family live. The air is clear, and walking along the water is always a delight. It’s beautiful and comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable and that's why I'm living in the UK. London is home #2. London is beautiful, vibrant, artistically interesting, bursting with history and much, much less comfortable.
My Canadian “laid back” approach is in stark contrast to London’s aggressive energy. I often have to tell myself to jump in there and walk when I’m in a crowd making my way on the sidewalk. I tend to let people go ahead of me as they seem to care a bit more about where they are headed. I guess that is to be said for any large city where aggressiveness and impatience is a necessity. I remember being specifically ignored and slighted because I took a second too long on my bagel order in New York City. “What can I get you?” “Um….. Hmmmm….I think….” “NEXT!” So maybe this is my Canadian apologetic nature, or perhaps it’s just me.
I fear that in my aggressiveness I may step on a toe or two. My biggest fear as a child was hurting someone else because I accidentally broke something they owned. I remember stepping on a pair of swimming goggles and feeling horrible. I apologized profusely and begged for her forgiveness. Although now as an adult I ask, “Why were they just laying there right in middle of the path where people walk.” Another time, I had an absolute fit and crying jag when I realized that I had eaten my friend’s older sister’s cereal in the morning. I know that that sounds extreme, and it was, but this sister used to sit me down and yell at me for all my mistakes. Looking back now I can see how unhealthy and damaged this strange older girl was, but as the young girl on the receiving end of her tyraid, I sopped up her venom and blamed myself for not knowing better.
So the trick now is learning to live in a big city and absorb some of it’s aggressiveness, (or maybe I should call it assertiveness), without losing some of my lovely sensitivity. If I step on a few toes…. well that’s ok. A month ago, I went with friends to a shoe store in Covent Garden. The shoe store had an art installation in the basement of an adult sized ball room. It was a makeshift pool filled with plastic blue and white balls, a pool slide, and a projected images of cartoon bubbles on the ceiling. It was meant to be jumped in and used. So I jumped in and played. We picked up balls and began throwing them at each other. I ended up smacking my friend on the forehead with a ball. I heard the plastic, “Thwap!” and felt instantly terrible. My lifelong pattern and instinct in such a scenario is to:
STEP 1: apologize
STEP 2: internally berate myself
I did step 1, without hesitation, but before the engagement of step 2 I had a moment of clarity, “Jade, you apologized. She is alright. This is the risk of entering a ball room ball battle. If you were the one that was hit, you would just smile and carry on. You wouldn’t want anyone to feel terrible, especially as it was an accident.” So, I chose to stay in the game, even though all my instincts screamed for me to leave. I told myself to learn from my mistake, and aim better next time. I didn’t leave.
So maybe that’s the trick. You give yourself the freedom to play. If you accidentally step on a toe, or hit someone in the face, check and see if she is alright. If medical attention is unnecessary, then "Move on already!" My experience has taught me that sometimes the reaction of others is based on their own internal need for attention, or perhaps they need to take better care of their own damn toes. If you really did do something that hurt, berating yourself doesn’t help it only makes you smaller, tighter and ultimately a victim of your own meanness. So here's my new step by step plan for life: play with gusto, and if you smack someone in the face with your gusto, apologize, and most importantly - aim better next time!