Sunset in Santa Cruz, CA

The scratches on the table leg are deep, angled from the same direction, so it looks like they were made over time, rather than all at once.  A repeated behavior that had a harmful impact.  I noticed the scratches as I was moving the table to sweep beneath in and around these pedestal legs.  My first thought was to blame the dog or the cat.  They like to hang out at my feet and this is the table I write at.  So I’m here in this spot a lot, being useful, and being not useful.

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out who made the scratches, just assumed the worst of one of my animals and left it at that, grimacing each time I saw the scratches, but doing nothing past that.  Nothing to fix the visual eyesore, nor my feelings about it.

This morning, as I was getting dressed, I looked over at my turquoise Mini Bailey Uggs and a thought popped in.  Is it possible that I’ve got a nail in one of the soles of those boots?  Those boots that I’ve worn a lot over the past few months to keep my toes toasty in the chill air of the living room?  Those boots that were on my feet as I pulled them across the pedestal of the table over and over again.  I put my feet up, and then shift in my chair and slide my feet over the top of that table pedestal to tuck them up under my chair on the rungs beneath, and then back out again to rest on the pedestal and then tucked back under (I’m generally pretty fidgety, so this movement happens over and over.)

As I pull out the boots to look at the soles, I first look at the right boot and there is nothing out of the ordinary there, and then I look at the left boot.  The boot that would correspond to the deep scratch marks on the table leg.  And there, tucked away at an angle is the head of a tack nail, perfectly positioned to gouge deep scratches.

After apologizing to my dog and my cat, I started to think about the metaphor of doing harm with no awareness of it.  I was not aware of the nail in my boot, so wasn’t being cautious about where I placed my feet.  I’d assumed that the soft rubber sole of the Ugg would be sufficient to protect anything from its impact.  Not being aware of the nail, I was blithely going about my business.  And it made me wonder how many times I’ve hurt people in that same manner.   Just going about my business, with no awareness of some sharp thing that I’ve got sticking out that’s gouging others.

Yes, I know that everyone is responsible for themselves.  It’s not my job to protect you from your feelings.  On the other hand, it is my job to be aware of my impact in the world.  This feels like such a fine line to me.  That line between my personal responsibility and yours.  That line of impact.  My language, my very way of being has a ripple effect out there in the world, as does yours.  We are all wandering around, bumping into each other physically, metaphorically, emotionally.  Just bumping into each other like crowds of balloons on a ceiling.  Most of the time the bumping is benign, but sometimes the bumping causes a balloon to pop.

I have no answers here about this fine line, just an awareness that it’s there and that there are many things that I am unaware of.  This is a humbling thought for me, because I like to think that I’m a pretty aware person.  It also reminds me of what I don’t know I don’t know.  And there is a LOT in that category.  So, with an open mind and an open heart and the trust that what I need to know will be revealed when I need to know it, I go about my day.