Today when I went to the post office, the prized proofread copy of the fall issue of LILIPOH magazine had arrived in the mail. I knew it because of the red card in my PO Box. I took my tag and handed it to the lady working behind the counter. She presented to me my Express Mail package encased in a plastic bag, stamped with the words “We Care.”
Normally, the cardboard envelope was not surrounded in plastic. As I picked the package up, it went limp. It was soaking wet. I could see through the clear wrapping that the envelope was torn. The postal looked at me with compassion, “It arrived that way,” she said. She also noted that it arrived late, which meant that Caryl, our proofreader, could obtain a full refund of the $18 dollars it cost to insure the package arrived in my hands the day after she’d mailed it.
Now, for years I have been studying the process of thinking, watching thoughts arise, trying to be mindful and awake to the understanding that thoughts are realities and have an impact on the physical world. I noticed what was surfacing in me as I held my soggy pile of important papers. I was annoyed. Pissed. Discouraged. A refund just wouldn’t be good enough. Someone had to make this right.
I walked home, and peeled the package open for closer inspection. The pages were damp all the way through, but luckily, not to the point where the ink had run. The copy was still legible. I pulled each article apart and spread them out across the living room floor, near the open front door so the air blowing in would help them dry quickly.
As it was, I was running late. I was headed out to attend Just Write for the first time, a writer’s group in Coupeville hosted by literary agent Andrea Hurst. I brushed off my annoyance and rushed out the door.
On the 30 minute drive north to the midpoint of the island, I thought about the following:
My package was wet, and though the label on the outside said “We Care,” the subsequent fine print said, in so many words, “We’re sorry, but mistakes happen.” I can understand that sometimes a machine might tear up an envelope, or a piece of mail might get lost. But this—this was clearly the result of someone who did not care, someone who was sloppy or negligent. So here I was, a mind full with negative thoughts (as opposed to mindful). At least I noticed that much.
Later, I began to wonder about the man or woman who’d mishandled my package. What kind of day might he or she been having? Underpaid, overworked, feeling pressures of family, economy—while here I sat, in the sun, on the Coupeville wharf writing this blog post. As I looked out over the water, the wet manuscript suddenly didn’t bother me one bit. This unnamed postal worker had a careless moment, and it resulted in a wet package. But then, I had personalized the unfortunate experience.
Thankfully, I realized I had a choice. Did I want to say “yes” to the negative thoughts I was having toward this person, when, by thinking them, I was only solidifying the truth that this person disappointed me and negatively affected my experience? OR did I want to hope for a healthy, happy, peaceful life for this person who maybe did not have the presence of mind to care about my package?
By saying “yes” to caring about the individual, I did something for myself. I released myself from reliving the idea that I am a victim, that I am merely the object of someone else's circumstances. By changing my thoughts, I freed myself from recreating a negative reality (“Why did you do this to me?”), and instead, retrained my attention, my thoughts, onto a mental picture of “I wish you well.”
An interesting inner shift. It might not change the reality of this other person, who I don’t know, but it has changed mine by giving me a more compassionate vantage point, and a softer, more humane point of attraction. So, for that, I thank the postal worker who left my package out in the rain.
PS Suggested flower essences to support our best self in this kind of situation to come soon!