Christmas. A time of love and unity. Unfortunately, also a time where anger, bitterness and fallouts between family and friends become readily apparent. As someone who has experienced the absolute freedom of love and forgiveness, I always find division among humans deeply saddening.
I will tell you the Christmas Bitch Miracle story.
Once upon a time, some years ago, somewhere between Queens, New York and the Florida Keys, a sad, miserable, bitter, cheeky bastard was working as a patient care assistant in an urban ER. In my mediocre defense, I was dealing with some pretty heavy shit at the time. I was still dealing with the aftermath of a divorce; halfway through nursing school, I had flunked pharmacology; my spot in the nursing program was looking about as stable as a noosed cowboy, supported only by a three-legged horse who had just shot up an eight ball of crystal meth; I was routinely working 12-hour night shifts in the ER, clocking out, and going straight to a full day of clinicals or class with a garbage energy drink in one hand and a Snickers bar in the other; I was averaging around 4 to 5 hours of sleep every 24 hours; in order to transport my kids during their visitation, I sold my favorite truck to buy a piece of shit car that my dad (God bless him) would end up sinking more repair money into than I paid for the whole Godforsaken car; etc., etc. You get the point.
Around this most pleasant time in my life, I developed a forced relationship with, let’s call her Ms. Bananas, RN, my blossoming nemesis. I say “forced,” because inevitably the ER charge nurse would put me with her in the rapid assessment area, and for 12 hours straight I would be her personal mule. Every. Fucking. Shift. Ms. Bananas and I had a mutually passionate hate for each other. She knew it, and everyone at work knew it. Why? Well, because it’s all I ever talked about to anyone. This was prior to any sort of awakening or transformative life experience for me. I had zero zen. I had no knowledge of venting once and letting it go. To the contrary, I much preferred dating it, marrying it, making love to it, and letting it infect my blackening soul like hot tar over a virgin snowflake. I’m sure Ms. Bananas had her reasons. So did I. She was a Primetime Grade A Premium Bitch.
This deranged high-strung circus went on for months.
One slow night a few days before Christmas, we don’t have any patients at the moment, and I’m studying for an examination. Ms. Bananas disappears for a few minutes and returns with both arms strung through around a dozen handmade gift baskets. She starts handing them out to security guards, custodians, clerks, nurses, doctors, pretty much anyone who contributes in the ER. She’s actually smiling. I figure maybe she’s taken some happy pills. I know there’s no way in hell she has a gift basket for me. I roll my eyes, unimpressed, and return my gaze to the 14th unkempt vagina in my women’s health book. I resume pondering how ugly genitalia know no prejudice. The 100 penises I saw in our men’s health rotations were equally as contemptible. I never understood why in God’s holy name the models didn’t at least pretend to give two shits about their landscaping situations. Trust me, after you’ve seen a few hundred of them, a herpes flare looks way better on some nicely trimmed love triangles, as opposed to primitive jungle mullet dreadlocks.
Of a sudden, my critical thinking wave is interrupted by a surprising tap on my shoulder. I turn, shocked to find Ms. Bananas invading my personal bubble, arms outstretched, presenting me with one of her gift baskets. I cast a quick glance behind me. Perhaps she was addressing someone over my shoulder. Nope. I don’t know what to say. I take the basket cautiously, assessing it for anything edible that might contain copious amounts of arcenic. Vexed, I look up into her eyes, probing for signs of evil plotting. There is a faint smile across her face. Try as I might, for the life of me, I cannot find a single hint of animosity in her eyes. I only see love and generosity. I suddenly start to feel my hatred wiring short circuiting.
The Self emerges from within.
Man, you’re an asshole.
I promptly tell The Self to shut its cakehole, and I attempt to shove it back into some dark corner within me. Damned consciences. So annoyingly persistent with their stupid reminders to be a better person. Anyway, I thank Ms. Bananas, and she moves on to her next recipient.
I promptly go down the hall to find a coworker with whom to share this odd experience. “Girl,” I report, “Ms. Bananas totally just gave me this gift basket. What the salty hell is going on? Did she blow a fuse or something?”
“She really is a nice person, once you get to know her,” she replies. “And she’s got a lot going on.”
”What-the-hell-ever,” I scoff. “Such as?”
My coworker goes on to tell me how my nemesis has a grandson whom she adores, and over whom she has primary custody. The kid has a terminal illness requiring an organ donation. Unfortunately, he keeps getting bumped down the donor list, and his future is not certain.
The Self re-emerges. “Yep. Self-righteous asshole.”
I snap back. “Oh, do go on, remind me a third time.”
“Hypocritical, egotistical, assh…”
“Shut up,” I interrupt.
I feel the grueling painful peeling off of the bitch lens through which I’ve been viewing her. A new lens is forming. One that would begin to see her as a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a gift giver, a compassionate nurse. It transformed the way I related to her. This was my introduction to the concept of how unwittingly attached we are to our ways of thinking, and what we believe.
We view life events, circumstances, people, almost anything, through lenses. These lenses are made of what we’ve been taught, what we believe, personal experiences, and a whole host of other things. We humans are extraordinary at making initial judgements, and then we cling to them like a narcissist to a super glue mirror. And we’re really shitty at letting go of old, disempowering lenses, let alone creating new ones.
Recently, my beautiful daughter approached me for some guidance about a friend with whom she’d grown distant. She felt like her friend was being self-centered, and she was losing the desire to hang out with her. We chatted for some time.
I then told her “You’ve named several negative things about her. Tell me two or three positive things about her.”
My sweet Em opened her mouth to speak. I observed the sound waves in front of her face, undisturbed. No words came out. She couldn’t think of a thing.
“Forget everything I just told you,” I said. “Your homework is to create a new lens. Find three positives about her, and when you speak to her again, interact with her according to those positives.”
My friends, consider those you dislike, or maybe hate, perhaps even among family members or friends. Can you recognize the lens through which you view them? Can you associate with them through new lenses? I have held great bitterness for much of my life. And I can tell you from personal experience that love and forgiveness will add years to your life. Bitterness and hatred will shave years off of it. As my dear friend Donna would say on the topic of reaching difficult people,
Sometimes you want to communicate with people not as they are, but as you know they could be.
This was a Christmas story, but you can apply it to any person, any situation, anytime. Peace, love and good mojo. Cheers.
Cover photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash at https://unsplash.com/photos/G8zdNo9w2yY (edited)
Photo 1 by Dollar Gill on Unsplash at https://unsplash.com/photos/G8zdNo9w2yY
Photo 2 by Saketh Garuda on Unsplash at https://unsplash.com/photos/IbFIHMRChCY