Every time I use the restroom, I count the squares of toilet paper. It has been thirty years since an economic crisis made that a necessity for my family but I still catch myself slipping into the habit.
When I think about what I’m doing, I am made keenly aware of how past experiences influence the way I look at issues. If I had never suffered a bathroom tissue shortage, it would not occur to me to be conservative with it.
I also lived in a primitive cabin for a few years and learned to be extremely careful with water. My parents bought only leather shoes and, because they taught me the benefits, I won’t have any other. I learned a memorable lesson when a frightened cat bloodied my arm as I carried her across a busy street, unwilling to let her down in the traffic. Introduced to Haiku at an impressionable age, I appreciate non-rhyming poetry with a strong cadence.
All this is fluff but it makes me sentient about deeper matters, like how a person feels on important things like adoption, politics and spirituality. I have deep-rooted feelings about many things; I am irrevocably set and passionate about some of them. Still, I am able to let others have an opinion that opposes mine and not argue the matter.
I realize a person who has not lived as long or learned as many lessons may have strong opinions and feel a need to give them loud voice. Even in this, I usually am able to give grace.
If a young person says something silly or shallow, it is easy for me to remember when I was just as impetuous and naïve.
When a brassy person forces an issue, I can get loud and argumentative right back and say things that are mean-spirited. It’s rare but it happens. Then I have to extend myself grace!
I enjoy meeting people from other backgrounds, other cultures. Because of my many and varied life experiences, I admire people who have learned English as a second language, rather than despising their awkward use of it. What brave souls they are!
At the grocery store yesterday, I waited for an older lady to back her SUV out of my way. She looked over her shoulder at least a dozen times as she inched out of a parking space. I thought things—impatient things.
But then I remembered when I used to drive a big, long Lincoln and an equally hard to maneuver Crown Victoria. I was known to bump into things and it made me extra cautious about backing up. This gave me grace and patience with the other driver.
There are many advantages to being my age. There are discounts at fast food places. Auto insurance rates are good. The mortgage is paid off. But the big benefit, the important one, is that I can have empathy with people who count squares of toilet paper.