7920683-humorous-illustration-cartoon-of-ebenezer-scrooge-with-one-green-ornamentSunday, December 23: I watch “What Not To Wear”. It’s my secret guilty pleasure. The 360º-room is my favorite segment. Fashion offenders stand in the harshly lit mirrored stall, dressed in outfits from their personal wardrobe. I sit on the couch, fragrant in my re-used running clothes, and nod in agreement with the style experts’ dress downs.

My December daily-act-of-niceness project has been like a month in the 360º-room. Naked. Each good deed made me think about why doing the nice thing was not my first inclination. My most common excuse was that I didn’t have the time. I had more important things to do, like catch the train before the doors close, beat the traffic light, pluck my eyebrows, write (or procrastinate), laundry. I’ve let elevator doors close on people, withheld comfort because I’m holding a grudge, refused to read something over for someone, driven past neighbors walking along the boulevard in the rain. I was an expert at behavior I considered jerky in others.

What if my mentor had decided he didn’t have time to talk to me on the days I freaked out and wanted to quit my MFA program and writing? My arms would be dislocated from my shoulders if it weren’t for the neighbor who helps carry my groceries, even though he’s obviously on his way somewhere other than my front door. The coffee cart guy who remembers and asks about my newest teaching post, the twenty-something at the campus computer lab who helps me with my printing issues even though she’s working against a final paper deadline. I would be alone and miserable if it weren’t for all the people who’d shared their time with me. The month of self-reflection showed me the lonely, grumpy future I faced if I continued to be a Scrooge with my time.

The soul-revealing 360º-room showed me there’s no moral equivalent of Spanx or a big bulky sweater to camouflage my faults and flaws. December 2012 has been humbling and, at times, mortifying. I saw how focusing so much on myself had made me “ugly” and ashamed to assess myself honestly. Becoming nicer-Nancy is a process that will take work and time, but I hope to stop losing and missing out on the people and experiences that make life much nicer.

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