I had a bit of a moment today. A moment where the paint thinner of life smeared itself all over the thin layer of niceness I try to coat myself with when I’m in public. And it wasn’t even my kids this time.
My amazing in-laws had taken the girls for a chunk of the day, and I decided that I would just write. Not run a bunch of errands and clean the house and make it to the gym and all that other good stuff that I usually try to do when I’m kid-free. Just write. Finally send in that article pitch I’ve been working on, maybe blog, maybe journal. So I went to a special writer’s centre in Calgary that hosts open writing times. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place that just oozes inspiration, and I hoped it would help me get my write ON. Except that today, it was full of children. Noisy children. I think they were in a play-writing class. A play-writing class that was running all day.
I popped my ear plugs in, and tried to pretend that it wasn’t a big deal, and that I totally know how to write when I’m surrounded by distractions, and that I especially love writing when I’m surrounded by kids, but after five minutes, I gave up and left.
When I got in my car, I was irritated. Irritated that my perfect little plan for the day had been interrupted by a typically-noisy (noisily-typical?) group of 10-year-olds. It didn’t seem fair, and I wanted to be mad at someone. But really, there was no one to be mad at. There was no reason that that group of kids shouldn’t be using the space. If anything, I was mad at myself for being so mad.*
And then it hit me, as it so often does,** that sharing the world with other humans is sometimes just a grind. Even when we’re not trying to get in one another’s way (let alone when we are trying) we often manage to annoy and inconvenience each other. I guess it’s the human condition.
I used to hear terrible stories from war zones and desperately poor countries of people rioting over aid supplies, or killing each other over small disputes, and I would think “how can people do that to each other?” But in recent years, I’ve started wondering if the only thing that prevents similar situations from happening in Canada is that there is enough. Generally enough food, enough space on the roads, arguably enough resources to go around. And enough policing, I guess. But it’s not that I or we are any better than people rioting over aid supplies – it’s just that we have enough insulation keeping our human impulses in check. “First world problems” may be a punchline, but I think that whether our problems are third-world or first-world, it shows the tension going on underneath the surface.
My first world problem today had a resolution. I ended up a few blocks from the writing centre, in a beautiful public library with free parking, sitting by a window. There are still noisy kids, but at least they’re in the kiddie area. Now that I’ve calmed down from my eviction-by-10-year-olds, I’m wondering if sharing the earth with other people is the point. That it’s not about accomplishing what I want to accomplish in spite of the people around me, or insulating myself from irritation. That the people, annoying or not, are the point. It’s an uncomfortable thought, and actually internalizing it seems like a lot of work. But it’s a better way to live than trying to maintain my crappy niceness paint job.
**Especially when I see a single person parking in one of the prime carpool spots at the YMCA