Yesterday I was given the opportunity to practice many of the things I teach here.
In the middle of happily listening to music and cleaning house, I received an unexpected phone call from an irate 90-year old member of our community that I was suddenly obliged to navigate.
In the moment, I was pretty much dumbfounded. As a serious introvert, I’m not much of a phone person in the first place, partially because I like to have the space to reflect before speaking and partially because not being with someone in person feels like such a handicap when I rely a great deal on reading the other signs of a person’s energy and intentions like body language, eye contact and facial expression.
So, as calmly as I could I listened to her grievance.
Over the weekend, I had composed an email message for my neighborhood community with some safety precautions and tips regarding the CoVid-19 virus currently affecting us. Being close to Seattle, and in Washington state where the highest number of deaths in the U.S., our city is understandably on high alert right now.
My letter was sent out to an email list for our community members. I’m sure you’re wondering what could possibly go wrong with a helpful measure such as this.
Well, as it turns out this woman did not receive the message, but was informed about the message by her daughter who doesn’t actually live in our community but received it instead because since her mother is not online, she handles some things having to do with her mother’s home, so her email and contact information is on our list.
The woman was outraged and roared at me, accusing me of undermining her, that she, the rightful owner of the home, felt diminished when her daughter received the message rather than her and so on.
When finally I spoke to apologize and explain that was never my intention, she would have none of it, cursing at me to shut up and stop making excuses. She attempted to bulldoze over me with an authoritative tone.
I found it interesting that someone could refuse to even hear an apology and that it would anger them more. This is when I realized that nothing I could say would matter, and the best thing would be to say as little as possible and simply acknowledge her while being kind and respectful.
This wasn’t easy. I know the default ego defensive reaction for everyone can be quite different. For some, it’s lashing back and not taking any crap. For me, it’s to freeze and shutdown and take everything being hurled at me. It feels like all I can do is curl up in a trembling ball and take the beating being administered quietly because that’s what was expected of me as a child.
In an instant, I was thrown back to my child self and this lady was my Authoritarian Father. I was no longer a 45-year old woman. I was a frightened 9-year-old child.
Have you experienced this? It’s unsettling, to say the least, especially when you thought you were sailing along in life just fine, all grown-up and stuff, when BAM! You’re boomeranged back to your whimpering child self. Times like that leave me feeling I’m an imposter in this adult life I’m pretending to live.
It was all I could do to hold myself together while on the call with her.
Left shaking, I hung up the phone and started crying.
My triggers unveiled the pain still present in me, showing me the areas that still need my attention, what I can consciously be aware of and work on. My wounded inner child is still pretty delicate and sometimes I wonder if she will ever be totally healed. I know I still need to work on feeling just as important as others, speaking up for myself and taking space. I’m miles ahead of what I once was, but it’s a lifelong work in progress.
And as a recovering Co-Dependent People Pleaser, I have to be extremely conscious during times like this. I still have to talk to myself and remember I can be kind, yet still implement the necessary boundaries. Because to not do so, to allow someone else to control me, would not be loving to myself, would it?
In a better place after sleep, I wrote her a careful letter this morning, taking the opportunity to say what she wouldn’t allow me to say on the call. I acknowledged her upset, apologized and explained the situation, so she might be able to understand it wasn’t done with malicious intent. I also spoke up for myself and said I didn’t appreciate the way I was treated and would like to be treated with the same respect I extend to her and others.
Last night, I had some realizations about why she may have reacted the way she did. I understand she is a woman who once prided herself on being strong, an ahead of her time feminist who is now grappling with age and terminal health problems threatening to steal her independence.
I’m so grateful I had some time today to do some reflecting and show myself some much-needed care and gentleness. What am I doing? Today I’m taking things slow and going with what feels right in the moment. This morning I did a little spring cleaning. Now I’m cuddled up with my pup and a cup of tea and writing, which always lightens the load on my heart and shoulders. Later I will take a walk with my husband and enjoy the first signs of spring.
These are trying times in our world right now and people are particularly keyed up.
For some, it will present an opportunity to practice all that we are learning- awareness, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, understanding and love.
And others will allow the grip of fear to pull them further into unconsciousness.
The best practice is to live as the saying by John Watson goes,
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.