The Magic of Paul
Dirt spraying behind us, we parted from the curb at about 10am to the Specials “A Message to You Rudy.” Paul said that after a long night of writing, skateboarding, and coffee drinking that we needed something particularly positive to infuse us with good energy. His weapon of choice was always the Specials. “Jolly good one, gov’nor,” Paul proclaimed as we sped down the street. “I had no idea we were in jolly, old England,” was Paul’s way of kindly letting me know that we were driving on the wrong side of the street. Paul loved Morrissey and England.
Paul literally saved us this time, and the time when I haphazardly ran through a stop sign – too involved in car conversation and singing the Smiths to notice a car nearly colliding with the rear driver’s side door. Paul’s response to that, “It’s always exciting with you. Never a dull moment. Dear diary, today I almost died. It was great. Jeff sang the whole way through.”
Paul had also figuratively saved me. When I met Paul, I was looking for an exit from friendship groups that had become parasitic and dangerous. I had finally come to terms with the saying, live by the sword, die by the sword, and I had decided to not die by the sword. I watched people I had long been friends with go to jail, one drove my car so recklessly that the axel fell out, and others caused so much trouble at my girlfriend’s place that the police were calling my house. When you come from a tough place, you either run from the people and events that sharpen you or you commit to them. I committed to them until it became clear that many of them had mostly committed to themselves. I made the tough decision to cut off some friends and risked being alone. Paul extended a branch, and pulled me in.
Paul took me from a scene of risk and some crime to a community of artists. Our mecca was a 24 hour Eat N’ Park Diner. During the day, Paul educated me about alternative music and punk music, since I only knew about Motown, Hip-Hop, and R&B. At night, fifty to sixty of us would drink coffee, eat random food, smoke cigarettes, and write, paint, design, and skate. The closest we came to a fight was someone I knew from the old days, who tried to run up on Paul and jump him, but I promptly ended that encounter.
Paul had his own difficulties, but somehow found a way to weave whatever the world gave him into a rainbow. He laughed a lot, was a master of silly faces, doodles, and hugs. If there is someone in the world that hugs more people than me, it’s Paul. Paul wasn’t just a charismatic guy. He was a master of compassion. As his friend, I knew there was something special about him, but like most good friends I didn’t need to name it. I just supported him, and tried to push him in the way of good fortune, when I could.
Poli Wog: The Wizard of Compassion
Paul went by many names, but one of my favorites was Poli Wog. Not because the name screamed originality, but because of how he wore it. Paul approved of any alchemy that could turn something without meaning into a bridge of connection. In Paul’s approach to life, he does five very important things. First, he looks for a reason to celebrate the day when he wakes up. Second, he evokes excitement and connection in the way he talks about the routines that he shares with others. Third, Paul plans his schedule around these routines. Fourth, Paul chooses the loveliest quality of the new person he has met, and builds a home there. Fifth, no matter what you face with Paul, he will always find a way to describe it like the well-meaning narrator of a heart-warming movie.
Paul does not run from the moment. He makes himself (and everyone around him) at home in it. When compassion (self-compassion or compassion towards others) works, you feel safe, at home, and optimistic about the role your current experience will play in living a good life. Paul has never read a book on self-compassion to my knowledge. He is a natural. While he is unique and a gift; you can learn from his approach.
Paul in Action
When I was nearly eighteen years old, I experienced the greatest heartbreak of my childhood. I never loved a girl more, and had no idea why I lost her. The break up happened over the phone, and I was so upset that I pulled the hemp necklace she had bought me from my neck, scattering silver beads across the floor. I quit my job that day, when a manager I had grown close to tried to force me to finish my shift despite my grief. Paul took me to my cousin Shelly, who has a way of finding humor in suffering that catches you off guard long enough to let the suffering settle a little bit. Nevertheless, I became quite sad, had terrible stomach cramps, and become so uncomfortable in my body that I would have to go home early on most days from our adventures.
Paul never complained. He honored my suffering. He related his own, and urged me to take care of myself. He encouraged me to write. He brought the specials out more and more. He committed himself to teaching me even more about the music of which he was so fond, and he would prepare the Eat N’ Park goers to take good care of me. From time to time, he would grab me an Eat N’ Park cookie (a sugar cookie with white frosting and a big smiley face), and offered a goofy face whenever he could. He treated every day during this time like an adventure we had to get to, and when I truly felt bad, he let me be without requiring an apology or justification. Paul isn’t a compassionate guy. He is compassion.
No matter how dark or dismal your week, call on the Paul inside you. Make yourself at home in your experience. Invite your feelings in. Treat your life like an adventure, and find every excuse you can to develop routines that cement your relationships with loved ones. Be goofy. Being goofy gives you the automatic right to enjoy humor and how ridiculous life is at no cost. Frankly, taking life too seriously is often how we get so down. It compels us to believe that our experience is infinite and terminal, but just like Paul’s goofiness it comes in waves.
Develop routines with your friends and loved ones, and make a conscious effort to connect to their most lovable trait(s). It’s a win-win situation. Love in. Love out. Lastly, even in your darkest moments, let the narrator of your life be one that wants to tell a heart warming story; a story with your well-being and happiness in mind. A storyteller that reminds you that it is ok to scrape your knee on your way up the mountain because every scrape is a story, and every story is a tale worth telling because it is about you. You’re the hero. We care what happens in your story.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 61. In the Books.