I made a grown man cry yesterday. He thought I was angry with him, at least that was the story. The truth was that he lost his wife and mother to cancer within 10 days of each other, and is already back to work. He was essentially a human being with all skin removed and every nerve exposed.
The very air around him brought him pain.
No matter how softly I spoke to him, his face winced and flickered with emotion as if I were a DI screaming instructions instead of letting him know that he could take it easy, I didn’t need him to do anything yet.
I was eventually able to gentle him into a state of ease, but it took every bit of the work day. I considered it more than worth the effort. I was happy to have the temporary help I needed, but was also exhausted by what it took out of me to make him feel safe for the day.
People don’t always see you for who you are. They perceive you from what they are experiencing in their lives at any given moment. You could wear yourself out trying to explain or justify your truth or intent, but it rarely makes any headway in their belief in what is real for them.
I’ve learned it’s better for me to trade defensiveness for compassion.
Everyone is going through their own shit. It can get really rough. I’m pretty good at knowing when I’ve screwed up and doing what I can to make things right, but I’ve learned enough now to know that many times someone’s attitude and/or judgment comes from where they’re at or what they’re dealing with, and has nothing to do with me.
I’m just a stand in.
But I did momentarily feel like I’d been video-taped kicking a small puppy without ever having lifted a foot. Living is hard when you’re grieving. Breathing is hard. Holding space and bearing witness is hard.
Being human is hard.
Is it only Tuesday?