Another bitterly cold morning in Minneapolis, the third in a row. This one's 21 below zero. Across the bus, I see a young woman who is engaged in an elaborate toiletry ritual, applying her makeup with equipment drawn from her purse. This seems so odd to me on a cold, cold day when no one really cares what they look like, that I can't help but steal glances at her.
This isn't a simple touch-up of lipstick. She has a metal eyelash curler she uses to perform repeated surgery on her eyelashes, then goes through a very elaborate and complete ritual of mascara and eye liner and several applications of skin makeup, applied with careful caution while studying herself in a small hand mirror that is bouncing about with every movement of the bus. I am incredulous to see, as a finale, that she reaches up beneath her sweater to vigorously apply deodorant to her armpits. The entire process, curling eye lashes to treating the armpits, takes a full 20 minutes of bus ride.
Inside, I find myself slightly offended by this lack of respect for fellow passengers. I dislike that she has subjected us to this spectacle, one which most people would practice in the privacy of their own home. By all appearances, there is no developmental problem her that indicates the girl doesn't understand the social niceties. She seems to simply not particularly care that she is showing us this private activity.
My inner dislike of what I'm witnessing is something I recognize as unhappiness, although of a mild form. Examining the sensation, I realize that what make is making me unhappy is the personal disagreement I feel. I would like to negate what I'm seeing. I dislike it. I take issue with it. I'd like her to get off the bus, to leave this space. I don't want her to be.
Compounding this is the the fact that I also don't much like the fact that I'm quietly, arrogantly, judging this girl so harshly. My own judgmentalism is unpleasant to me, and this all by itself slightly increases my quiet unhappiness with the entire situation.
Then, though, I find myself becoming interested in the whole 'nowness' of the thing. I find myself curious about this girl—what must her inner world be like, for her to apply makeup and personal hygiene products in front of complete strangers on a crowded bus? Is her own workplace so oppressive and judgmental that she dare not venture in without being in full makeup? Is all this evidence of arrogance, or is it instead profound insecurity?
I"m also a little fascinated by the inner sensation of my own personal judgment, my own disagreement with the circumstances the world has presented me with today. The unhappy feeling is interesting, in some ways—it feels a bit like a negative electrical charge, or like magnets of similar poles thrusting against one another.
In the interest, in the curiosity and attention toward things as they are, I find that the rejection of things has now eased and is replaced by a more accepting feeling. And in the acceptance there is no longer unhappiness, but instead a feeling that can only be described as contentment and even a quiet happiness. It is faint, but none-the-less there. Unhappiness has given way to happiness.
This ebb and flow, this dance of happiness and unhappiness, is present virtually all the time, I realize.
Upon leaving the bus, a blast of cruel cold air feels for all the world like the burn of caustic lime.
This time, it's not so easy to find the acceptance.