How

“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.

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Silence

Where does the balance lie? Half of me wants to run away screaming, shielding my head with my arms, praying the words don’t make their way to my ears. The other half is tired of being bullied, remembers the cruel words thrown my way, the way I felt as a child and teenager. I want to demand the respect I deserve.

Neither may be the right way to react. How do I learn to keep my mouth closed, but not come off as a witch? I have this nasty little habit of wearing my heart on my sleeve, so if I’m in a “mood”, odds are the entire room knows it. How do I stand up for what’s right without fighting the losing fight with someone who is clearly unstable?

Today it’s as if nothing has happened. I even got an apology, but I confess, I did not apologize back. Maybe that makes me stubborn … maybe I don’t know how to be the bigger person. Maybe I’m tired of apologizing when I don’t feel I’m wrong. Maybe I’m tired of saying “Yes” all the time when my heart is screaming for me to say “No!”

I’ve been accused of being “fake”, so now I want to act exactly as I feel; indifferent. But the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. When dealing with someone who has a personality/mental disorder, indifference fuels their anger like no other source of energy can.

I can feel the tension building as I am choosing to withdrawal. It would be easy to chit-chat like before and ease the feeling in the air. But when the cycle continues, escalates and comes to blows, will I wish I had just kept quiet?

Probably. To quote a good friend, “Silence grows where negativity speaks.”

I’ll just prove all my teachers wrong. This girl can be silent when she needs to be.

It’s My Tea Cup and I’ll Cry if I Want To

Yes, I realize that may sound ridiculous. But let me give you some background.

I once talked about the cream of broccoli soup in the café in my building. They have delicious coffee, sandwiches and smoothies. I found myself purchasing tea quite frequently because the cup was so large.

The quest began! Find a beautiful mug that was a larger size, bring my own tea and save money, and maybe even choose a nice beach-y scene to help me trudge through winter. When I found the mug with the palm trees, it was love at first sight.

I have this thing for palm trees. This picture is from my wedding, which took place on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The venue imports palm trees for the summer, and I can’t tell you how many people asked me on which island we were married.

So me, palm trees, a cool breeze and sand between my toes … that is the happy place where I go on the days when the temperature is not my friend. One of these days I’ll tell you more about how the cold affects someone with fibromyalgia, but that’s another post.

I’ve learned to accept the new people even though they have come with much baggage. The baggage was understandable at first, because who hasn’t experienced a rough time in their life? And when the voices got louder, the phones were slammed harder and the words feeding into my head became more toxic, I still tried to keep the peace.

But when I went to make tea and my mug was gone, I was puzzled. There were several mugs in the sink, where they had been for days. (I may want to keep peace, but I’m not doing their dishes.) I asked via text if anyone had seen it, since no one from their office was actually in the office. No one knew.

It was my boss who stumbled upon it, and it was not in the kitchen sink. It was sitting in the doctor’s sink, filled with filthy water and a pair of medical scissors, and blotched with some crusty material that I really don’t want to think about. I had been out of the office two days and my mug was left unprotected. (*gasp*)

Lord forbid I ask, but I did anyway. I was told that no one knew it was mine even though I had actually made a show of the mug when I brought it in. It’s hard to forget when someone is giddy over a tea-cup.

This happened on the same day where I came in to my phone being unplugged. I responded that I was respectful of their “stuff” and expected the same in return. I definitely threw in the fact that it was ludicrous to use that mug for medical equipment, but I was not snarky. (I love that word!)

What happens next is what one might expect had I launched an attack on this girl. I was told “I don’t have time for your ^%#$ right now” and if I brought something in to the office, it was silly for me to not expect others to use it.

What? I’ve worked in many jobs and there was always the unwritten rule of being respectful of other people’s things, especially something they use to eat or drink with.

Then she called me the “b” word. She said I was fake, a hypocrite, that I sat at my desk like a goody-two-shoes and pretended to be nice to her. I always had something to complain about and I was a child for going behind her back to speak to my boss about her.

I talked to my boss because I was tired of hearing the f-bomb dropped in front of my patients. I spoke with her about it, it didn’t change, and I went to my boss. You will never get an apology from me for that one.

But you know the worst part? I used to be that person; the one who was dramatic at work, who spoke too loudly on the phone, who slammed things when things went awry. I’m not that person now, but I’m sharing an office with someone who is. And as much as I want to beat myself up over the sins of my past, I’ve learned to let it go.

I just don’t want to work with someone who dominates the entire office with negativity. I may have been obnoxious, but this situation is quite alarming. I’ve been told to disengage, that you can’t ever win with someone with this type of personality. (I will refrain from my diagnosis, I am not a doctor, but have experience with dealing with similar behavior.) There are so many stories but this has become far too long. (*yawn*)

Tomorrow is a new day. I will say “Good morning” in a civil manner because I am a professional who values her job. Fighting with someone like this just brings us to equal levels, and I don’t want to be dragged into the abyss. Not again.

I have too much to be thankful for. So I’ll wash my palm tree mug and I’ll think of try not to get so upset over “things,” and learn how to maintain the integrity that is worth so much more.