“With all the things that you could be, you never could learn how to be me.” ~ Lisa Loeb, “How”
Why do life lessons always smack so hard in the face? Or is that just me…
I have admitted to being a difficult person, to wearing my heart too much on my sleeve, for allowing an entire room to be aware that I’m having a bad day. As much as I thought I had gotten better, some days feel like a hundred steps back.
I was walking the dogs last night, just like I do (almost) every night. Walking the two of them together is sometimes a struggle because of having fibromyalgia, but the exercise is secretly what keeps me feeling pretty good. We were power walking, my iPod was bumpin’ and my heart rate was jammin’ along to the beat.
A white BMW SUV pulled up next to us and slowed to a stop. The driver was a middle-aged man, accompanied by another middle-aged man in the passenger seat and a little girl in the back. The driver said, “Hi there! I was just admiring your dogs, what type of dogs are they?”
I stopped to catch my breath (we were power-walking!) and replied “They are pit bulls.” I smiled. Normally, I never stop there. I pick up on the looks of astonishment and quickly say “They are the best dogs!” or “They are cuddle bugs!” or “Yes, they are pit bulls, do you want to pet one? Prepare to be covered in slobbery kisses!”
But this time, I didn’t get that far. Before I could say another word, the man in the passenger seat turned away, gave an indignant snort and said “Drive.”
My mouth fell open, the driver mumbled something unintelligible and they drove away. The only thing I managed to say was “WOW” and I don’t think they heard me.
I immediately started shaking, and felt angry tears threatening to make an appearance. I thought back to the exact moment of dismissal and re-hashed all the things I had wanted to say.
None of them were pretty. They came from the darkest, ugliest part of my soul, the part I try to pretend doesn’t really agree with those feelings of hate.
I wanted to call him every bad word in the book. I wanted to reprimand him for teaching a young child how to be unjustly prejudiced. After I had a minute to calm down, I wished I’d had time to read him the list of reasons pit bulls were once considered “America’s dog” and how lovable, loyal and amazing they are.
I hated that I didn’t say anything. Even more, I hated the fact that I knew I couldn’t say anything without it being nasty.
Why did this jerk get to me so much? Why did I let him? It wasn’t my first experience with someone who had a bad attitude about pit bulls. But this man’s hateful look, his snort, his comment, everything about him made me so angry that it stayed with me for hours.
I just kept thinking, “How?” How does someone act that way? Forget his insult to my dogs, how was he able to be so dismissive to another human being? How could he be so cold.
How, how, how.
That word has been with me a lot.
“How can people act that way?”
“How could she not know it’s inappropriate?”
“How could they be so inconsiderate?”
“How am I supposed to sit here and let this happen in front of my patients?”
How, how, how.
“With all the things that you could be, you never could learn how to be me.”
This has been a favorite quote of mine, ever since the first time I saw the movie Twister and heard the haunting music, the thought-provoking lyrics. I took comfort in the words and tried to really be content with who “me” was.
But just like you could never be me, I could never be you. I could never be the people in my office who drive me up the wall. I could never be the ignorant man in the fancy BMW, whose words cut deeper than he could ever know.
I stopped just shy of excusing the man’s actions. I almost went to that place, the place of “Well maybe he had a bad experience with a pit bull. Maybe a pit bull bit one of his kids. Maybe he has valid fear.”
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
I think I’ll just focus on how to be me. A “me” that can learn to keep my heart inside my chest, where it will be safer from the cruelty of the world.
And until I know how to do that, I’ll just look at this and laugh.
Because life is too short to get caught up in the “hows”. I would never make it out alive.