Nice, SuperNice

Mother Theresa statue, Struga
Mother Theresa statue, Struga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like 20 years ago, I was temping at a bank in New Rochelle. I was working for a banker — I forget his name — but he was younger than me by a few years. But he seemed older. He was getting over some kind of cancer. He used to buy me lunch almost every day. He seemed confused by me.

Then, he told me why. “You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met.”

“Really?” That seemed weird. I’m no Mother Theresa. I get impatient and insecure on a daily basis. I felt sorry for this banker — I mean, if I was the nicest person he’d ever met! Well, that just seemed sad.

Still. Nice gets a bad wrap. I remember in the book The Happiness Project when Gretchen Rubin is super-nice to everyone in her life for a week as a path to happiness. No one really notices her niceness and she’s glad when the week’s over ’cause it feels like kinda a waste of time. And niceness requires a lot of effort.

I have felt that my niceness is, at times, perceived as stupidity. (Especially at work — when the cynical males were perceived as smart and the young female optimists were seen as fools. Well ha! Fools have more laughs than cynics!)

I can’t help it. I am compulsively nice. And this kind of “nice girl” syndrome has cost me. Maybe in being nice I have swallowed some honest emotion.

Still. In the long run, I’d rather be overly nice than overly critical or mean.

My daughter and I had a screaming match yesterday and she accused me of being so mean. And ugh, that hurt. In a quieter moment, I asked my husband, “Was I mean?”

“When you two lock horns, no one wins,” he said. Which, I think, meant, ‘Yes, you were unfair or unkind.’ Hey, I thought, I’m sorry. And you only hurt the ones you love.

I don’t want to get into the deets of the argument, but my daughter and I talked it out later and we both promised to do better next time — to give each other a little more patience and more room to breath. Tough stuff. At least for me. Me? The nicest person you’ve ever met.

I have blogged about this before. And interestingly enough, I also wrote about my daughter four years ago in the blog post the power of niceness. I, then, too, referenced the Happiness Project and my resentment about workplace sarcasm winning over niceness. Weird. Four years later. I’m writing about the same stuff.

And still. Niceness wins. Every time.

Compassion, too.

This post was inspired by Daily Prompt: Nice Is as Nice Does

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Cleaning the Closet

Wallpaper - Hyacinth, pattern #480 - 1915-17
Wallpaper – Hyacinth, pattern #480 – 1915-17 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been decluttering my apartment — but I’d rather be in Paris.

I hired a home organizer, the Clutter Whisperer, and bribed a girlfriend, Barbara, to help me declutter my stuff. My brother and sis-in-law helped a lot too.

“The 1970s called, Mary Beth,” my bro Brendan said. “They want their chair back.”

I cannot do this kind of spelunking alone. Or without some humor, apparently.

Cynthia, a.k.a., the Clutter Whisperer, whom I found years ago on Craigslist, gave me some advice: purge your books and your clothes. I like her nonjudgmental approach. She said I’d do well in a big old farmhouse rather than a NYC apartment. That’s nice. I’d do better with a backpack in Europe too.

In my defense, as I tell my mother, “City apartments don’t have garages, basements, attics, big closets, cars, or home offices.” I know. I know. We have museums and parks. And I’d take them any day. I like experiences way better than things. But I have to get rid of the things so that I can have the experiences.

I thought when I left my job a year ago, I’d stay on top of my family’s stuff. A family of five just accumulates. And with Chris’s Parkinson’s, he’s a bit slower to help or initiate decluttering.

Also, I’ve been way more interested in my biz and my freelancing work than in home-centered activities.

I have excellent taste. I’m good at noticing (and sometimes making) beautiful things, I’m just not good at showcasing them or bidding them farewell (as in kids’ art projects!)

When working on my closet Friday, Barbara offered me this quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” Tall order. As I cleaned the closet, I found:

  • a journal from my raft trip on the Rio Grande in 1992
  • Hi8 tapes from the kids as toddlers
  • an orange tank top with the price still affixed (LOVE orange, but often wear the basic NYC black!)

These things were all kind of beautiful and kind of useful. The “kind-ofs” get me. I hang on to “kind of.”

I am asking the kids to join me in the purging of books and clothes.

I feel like contacting Gretchen Rubin. In her book The Happiness Project she talks about the joys of decluttering and, even, gasp, keeping an empty shelf. I’d like to do that. I’d like be a minimalist. I’d like to escape to Europe.

Right now, I’m traveling through my daughters’ seventh grade papers, going back in time. And if I’m lucky, I’ll recycle the past and move into the present, perhaps even experience a park or museum today.

The Happiness Project. I'm jealous

I know you’re supposed to feel happy when you read the Happiness Project a book by Gretchan Rubin. And in general, I do. But dangit, I also feel jealous. I’ve been working on my 7 Rules for, like, a couple of years. Also, I have been following the Happiness Manifesto for like seven years. So why am I jealous and not happy.

When I saw that movie, Julie and Julia, I felt jealous then too, because at the end of the movie Nora Ephron was calling Julie about making her blog into a movie. This particular blog I’m writing right now may not make a good movie.

Maybe I have too many blogs. About travel, about running, about my spiritual journey, and this one, about writing.

I will let it go. I will be happy. I want to blog more right now but I’m trying to pull the kids away from the computer, XBox, and TV to play some cards. Maybe that will make me happy.

For a writer, happiness seems so tied to getting published? Or at least getting paid.