“Happiness is not the absence of problems or worries; it is to be undefeated no matter what problems or worries we may face.” -Daisaku Ikeda
I’ve been taking classes to learn a new style of communication for the past year. Another woman signed up for the same courses as me, and we’ve been together the whole way through. We are now in our last class, and oddly enough, communication between the two of us has become problematic. Some of her comments to me following my practice sessions in class struck me as being jab like, hitting below the belt. The first time I overlooked it, but then it happened again and again and again until I decided to point it out to her using the communication skills we had been practicing and in the best way I knew how–calmly and assertively. Only, it wasn’t well received and she yelled at me in front of another classmate.
Since we live on opposite sides of the country, I arranged for a phone appointment to clear the air and give each other a chance to say what we each needed to say. My primary question for her during that call was essentially how can we move forward together? I took this opportunity to share with her the comments that had really bothered me, but I was met with explosive laughter followed by “You are way too sensitive!” She then informed me that from here on out she would make every effort to speak to me “plain vanilla.”
Needless to say, I could see that this conversation wasn’t going to be as productive as I had hoped. I invited her to share her frustrations, but she wasn’t really interested; and what little she did say was that it was all me. Within 15 minutes, the conversation came to an end and she hung up on me right as I was thanking her for her time. While it wasn’t an easy 15 minutes of my life, I was calm and polite the whole way through. I wasn’t expecting the hang up.
Maybe I am naive.
But, I still have three months left of class with her and there’s no turning back. So, I decided last night to do what I always do in times like these; chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, pray for this woman’s happiness, and study Nichiren Buddhist literature published for my faith community. It didn’t take me long to find an article that would help me out titled “Polishing Ourselves Through Adversity.” One statement from President Ikeda’s guidance really struck a chord with me. He says:
“Never fear hardships. Don’t allow yourselves to be defeated by criticism. Rather, be grateful for all obstacles because they help you polish and develop yourselves.”
We are here to learn, grow, and improve ourselves for the better. In spite of the fact that this particular individual was not open to a dialogue, it took a huge amount of courage on my part to contact her and invite her to problem solve with me. I challenged myself to do something that I normally would have cowered away from doing.
But, I did it, and that was a big growing step forward along this life journey of mine!