I have always been someone who feels empathy; I struggle to hide or control my emotions, and don’t generally see this as a negative thing. I wear my heart proudly on my sleeve- if I’m sad you will see it in my eyes, and I’ve been told my joy is infectious.
It baffles me when I come up against people that are so different, seemingly so full of hatred and negativity. Anger is always a fleeting emotion for me, and I have never willingly held onto a negative feeling for more than the value it brings to me.
But it has its place.
My therapist told me recently to get mad, really mad, telling me that to feel true anger is an essential part of the grieving process. It helps us to move forward in the same way that sorrow and utter hopelessness do. Don’t fight it, he said.
His advice in specific terms helped me to reconcile the end of a traumatic period in my private life, but I have tried to use his words to guide me in more general terms. Sometimes getting mad and sad is exactly what is needed to bring about a change in our lives, in our perception of our own self, where we go next and where we ultimately fit in the world.
I spend an awful lot of my life telling people that I’m ok, that I’m doing well, and that I’m coping splendidly despite the chaos surrounding me. I do this for a number of reasons; I don’t want anyone feeling guilty, or responsible for me. I want people to believe I’m ok, and not to worry about me; I hate to think of myself as a burden to my family and friends.
Sometimes you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, though.
Another golden nugget of wisdom my therapist imparted upon me.
He gave me the mission one week to practise being vulnerable with the people I felt safe with, and to document what happened. I reported back, as per his instructions, that it bought more love, compassion and strength into my life than I thought possible. Surprisingly being vulnerable didn’t send those closest to me running for the hills; they felt privileged and honoured that I’d let them help me and support me when I so obviously needed it.
I guess I took his advice one step further last week.
I don’t know what made me take that photograph, or write so openly about that afternoon. I think something in me just snapped; my gut told me, you have to document this. I thought to myself, people need to see this part of my life, rather than it being an anecdote that I tell in a humorous way after the event.
It wasn’t a cry for attention or help, I simply wanted someone, anyone, to read it and think to themselves, I’ll never judge again.
I forgive that woman, I really do. I did report her to my daughters school, and have considered the advice to take it to the police. I think that actually I will simply print out my last post and pop it on her car next time I’m passing. I’ll tell her that I forgive her for the way she spoke to me, but that she needs to see how upset it made me. I’m unsure whether that’s passive aggressive, the right thing, the wrong thing…. I don’t know. Part of me wants to talk to her, explaining that I thank her for putting me through that experience.
I do thank her.
Everything happens for a reason; her actions gave me the fuel to write something that started a debate. It made people think, and talk about invisible illnesses- what it means to be disabled, to feel compassion, experience ignorance, tolerance, humanity, love, solidarity. I’ve read thousands of comments where people have discussed and shared their experiences and thoughts.
It has be overwhelming. The love, support and compassion for all those thousands of people like me…..overwhelming.
That incredibly positive movement of love and hope shared by the tens of thousands of people who read my words, and saw my sorrow, came from one moment of hatred.
All that love.
All that empathy.
All that tolerance.
All that compassion.
One fleeting moment of hatred, bought about thousands of tiny moments of love for our fellow humans.
How can I not thank her, and be grateful to her for that? She sparked something so much bigger with her small mindedness: kindness and compassion didn’t just win, they smashed it out of the park.
On a personal level I feel stronger in dealing with the future nonsense I’m sure to encounter. In fact on Monday, a parking man waved frantically at me, trying to steer me away from the blue badge parking (based purely on the fact I’m youngish and girl next door pretty) I simply rolled down my window, grinning from ear to ear and thrust my blue badge in his face.
It felt bloody good, and I finally felt no shame.