Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cutting People Slack

I try to cut people some slack. All people. Lots of slack.

It all started, or at least came to the forefront of my awareness, when I had my third, last, miscarriage. I was really messed-up. Gordy's Grandma Dunbar had died on a Friday and then I miscarried the following Sunday. I cannot emphasize how much I mean it when I say, "I was really messed-up."

I can't remember when, exactly, Gordy's Grandma's funeral was but there were some days between our miscarriage and her funeral. I got it into my head that I needed a new purse. The strap had broken on my old one and I was not going to go to the funeral without a new purse. Looking back, I'm sure it was a way to fix something I could because, at that moment, there were so many things that I could not fix.

Gordy, being Gordy, simply drove me to the mall so that I could find a new purse. As soon as we got to the mall I started thinking maybe this wasn't such a good idea. There were people in there and I would have to speak to at least some of them. But I thought that if I could handle buying a purse, maybe in a week I might be able to handle the rest of my life.

We went in through one of the department stores and I began cutting through the clothes racks. Gordy followed. As I came to an aisle I started to step across and then noticed a lady with an infant in a stroller coming toward me. I said, "Excuse me," and stepped back between the clothes racks to let her pass.

She went off. As in, "You have no business cutting through there. You could hurt people. You could have tripped over my baby. You should be shot!" Okay maybe not the last one, but we stood there through a good 30-second harangue of how I was endangering her and her child. I apologized again, and with a "Well you should be sorry!" she strode off.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel that the slender thread on which you are relying for you sanity has just snapped? I lost it. Completely. Poor Gordy, I was standing in the department store sobbing as if I had lost my one and only child. Which I had. It just took that moment, that complete breach of trust that people are supposed to be kind to each other, that slammed it home so thoroughly.

Gordy, who is an amazingly kind person, helped me through the day. (He had just lost a baby too, but was focused on helping me.) I was determined not to leave without completing the simple act of selecting and purchasing a purse. I know it sounds really stupid if you haven't been there but it was a milestone. Like getting back on a horse that throws you off. I needed to have that piece of normal to get me through all of the abnormal.

I bought my purse. We left. We made it through the funeral and eventually we healed, as much as anyone can from a miscarriage. Now I can purchase a purse without a second thought (probably too easily). But I still remember vividly the lady in the department store. I never, ever, want to do that to another human being. So now I try, very hard, to cut people slack.

Slow checkout line? No problem.
Someone cuts me off? Just please don't hit me.
Someone completely goes off at me? Suck it up. They are having a very bad day. I've had some of those myself.

I'm by no means perfect. I can be intense, focused and goal-oriented. I still get frustrated and want to hurry when I'm feeling late or pressured. Remember the Mall Lady, I'm reminded. Cut others some slack.

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