She shares pretty much every week.
Every. Single. Week.
Now, let me state right at the outset that I think people should share as often as they feel the need to, and to hell with what anyone else thinks. For me a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous is medicine, and sometimes to get my full dose I need to raise my hand and speak to the topic, or share something that's going on with me, or in general open up and smash through my ego-fears of what other people will think of me. And I support fully, totally, any alcoholic's right to do so, within whatever format a group has decided upon.
But passionately believing that doesn't mean I always enjoy it.
We're only human after all, and on any given day those pernicious defects of character which dog every step of our spiritual growth are in full bloom.
And such was the case with me this last time she raised her hand to share.
You see, it's always the same thing. There's a lengthy wind up, in which every identifiable group in the room is praised, "You know, I really love X people," -- not praised in a condescending way I hasten to add, but week after week after week it starts to become a little twee -- and then pretty much one of two stories gets told, ending with a last little stroke for the people in the room.
Listening to this a dozen or more times has awakened the worst of my qualities. I am intolerant and judgmental and impatient. I have barely been able to keep myself from tossing off a few withering comments at her expense to a few friends at the meeting.
So this past week, up goes her hand, and the speaker, who had never been to the meeting before, called on her. There was that almost imperceptible rustle in the room, people shifting in their chairs or catching someone's eye -- I fear much of the group is in the same place I am.
I kept my eyes down as she spoke, listening without really hearing, and feeling that awful/comfortable/toxic/pleasurable judgmental thinking wheeze into life in my head. I was afraid if I looked at one of my friends my poker face would break or my eyes would give me away, and that is wrong, to editorialize in such a way when someone else is sharing -- well, wrong for me anyway.
She was working towards the end of her roster of groups of people she liked, (we'd been through the heritage of the speaker, the dominant demographic in the room, and were taking a quick lap around people raised in a certain religion, "And you know, I just love the X's. It's just so special to spend time with...") and as sometimes happens to me -- though I'm hard pressed to believe I deserve it -- I get a sudden, subtle gift: A better thought, something from a what I suspect is a much better place, comes into my mind like a clean breeze through the open window of a sick room.
"What happened to her, that before she can speak her mind she is driven to do this placating behavior? How old was she when she got Taught A Lesson that it's not safe to open up until you mollify everyone around you? What a hard thing to have inside you. What a fearful way to be, in a room that is supposed to be so safe. Who did that to her, and when? And how?"
Just like *that* I felt a moment of sublime compassion for her. This pattern she is in -- which she likely isn't very aware of -- driving her to do this verbal curtsy to everyone around her before she dares to speak up. How hard and sad. That's a tough thing to carry, I thought. It will probably be difficult to break through for her, if she even perceives it...
Is it too much to say that suddenly I was able to look at her with love? Roll your eyes, it's the kind of statement which deserves it, even though it feels like the truth. Certainly compassion is love, and it swept up through me, sitting in my dinky folding metal chair, having just moments before been a bitter, judgmental little pig, roasting on the slow turning spit of my resentment.
Such a profound shift inside leads to talk of God, and quiet miracles, and the healing power of staying in 12 Step rooms and letting that message wash over you day after day...
Grace can come in an instant. One moment I can feel nothing but contempt, the next... I am full of compassion.
I've been at this too long to predict how I will feel the next time she raises her hand and gets called on, but I suspect I was given a gift that will stick, and pay dividends I'm still yet unaware of.
To be clear: She is right and fine. I hope she keeps raising her hand and doing what she needs to do to get her dose of medicine. It didn't -- and it still doesn't -- matter a flying fig what I or anyone else in the group thinks of that.
I just know that one more time I got something unexpected and somewhat miraculous from simply sitting in a meeting and listening.