A different – longer, more cathartic, questionably less yogic – kind of story
Emotions are running high and tempers are short. Coronavirus is still in our lives as a somewhat heavier and more mundane presence than during the first lockdown. We’re all sick and tired of restrictions and barriers and being told what we can do and where we can go and when and why. There is so much we can’t control, all for an undeniably valid reason – to control the spread and limit the number of people affected – but there’s still something we can control; how we go about our daily actions, interactions and reactions.
Now it’s safe to say A&E had suited me up with thicker armour to shield from (the largely few and far between) episodes of aggressive impatience one might encounter in any people-facing role. But it turns out this armour, like a muscle, must be exercised regularly in order to be maintained. The day job: strengthening by rehearsal through repeated encounters. Mindfulness: reinforcing with deep measured breath work and grounding. It turns out, being away from A&E for a few months, is enough to allow that shield to rust and weaken.
To the lady in the supermarket, insurmountably angry about queuing to pay, I was the path down which she directed her anger. To that lady, who singled me out from a line of customers (having no issue with the other people ahead and behind me, go figure) to shout at, berate in front of the store, openly declare it was nothing to do with race (an interesting statement), throw dirty looks at across the checkouts, snidely name-call whilst passing by, shout further personal remarks as I left the store; I am truly sorry you’re in such a bad place. I’m sorry for what ever may have happened to you in your day, or even your life, to make you so verbally aggressive toward a complete stranger. I’m sorry you felt it reasonable to channel your personal anger at me, completely unwarranted. I’m sorry you were argumentative and unable to speak to me calmly, with respect, just one human to another, when I attempted to talk. You can’t reason with someone who won’t listen.
I’m more sorry I couldn’t say any of this to you at the time as I had dissolved into tears before forming a logical response. All de-escalation methods left my mind, as never in my life, in a wholly unprovoked situation, have I been made to feel so small and defenceless. I’m frustrated that I could not stick up for myself against your torrent of rage, and embarrassed that I was dumbstruck with the pure shock of being so publicly and unexpectedly attacked. All I could do was leave.
Recently, what with the daily uncertainty we all face, my nerves are shot and my anxiety has found a new lease of life. Not working (whilst having clear benefits) has placed a different sort of mental strain and these days’ once seemingly simple chores, like doing the weekly shop, can be stress-inducing. I’m glad I’ve come away from this extremely unpleasant encounter knowing it’s a reflection of that lady’s personal situation and circumstance – it was never about me, not really. Even then, it’s taken the best part of an evening, a few uncharacteristic bouts of tears and a panic attack to get to this point. It’s certainly knocked my confidence and made me feel a bit more inclined to do an online shop… But I’d hate to think what her actions would have done to someone in a more mentally fragile state. It really is true that you can never know what someone else is going through.
So there’s a story, take from it what you will. Maybe you, like me, need to devote more time to polishing your protective suit of armour (see the latter half of Sam Levenson’s words below). Maybe you need to check your temper and decide if the situation really warrants your reaction. Maybe you’ll have a think about what you could/would/should do as a bystander to such situations. But really, as we’re in this together for the long haul, we all just need to remember to take a moment, take a breath, and be kind.
“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”Time Tested Beauty Tips