Saturday, August 31, 2013

Another notch on my belt from (another) glitch on the path.

I don't know about you, but I've always been better at self-flagellation than self-congratulation.  I can beat myself up ten times for a mistake or poor choice, while never once patting myself on the back when I've done something right or well.  Perhaps it's from a fear of getting too full of myself, or maybe it's because no one ever encouraged me to do so.  Whatever the reason, as I've walked this path and worked to heal over the past few years, I've made an effort to recognize and acknowledge the things that I do or say, or how I experience something, that indicates I've changed in positive ways.  It helps me see that I have changed, and that reinforcement also makes it much easier to stay out of the negative self-talk spiral I used to get myself into way too easily.

I was thinking about this as I went for a walk this morning, and what brought it to mind was something I witnessed when I went to get new glasses that brought up an old memory, and something that I experienced when I went to get a haircut.

At Lenscrafters, as the technician was fitting my glasses,  a woman at one of the tables closer to the front of the store, began to raise her voice and it was obvious she was unhappy with the service she was receiving.  From what I overheard, she was concerned about the way the technician was bending and shaping her glasses as she worked to fit them properly on the woman's face.  As she stood up, I heard her say (in a less than pleasant voice) "I'll be surprised if those don't just break into pieces with all that you're doing to them."  The technician explained, in a very calm voice, that this was what she needed to do to fit the glasses properly.  Grabbing her glasses from the technician, the woman said, angrily, "I was in here last week and the girl that waited on me didn't do any of that!  You obviously don't know what you're doing!"  Picking up her purse, she began striding toward the door, looking back over her shoulder as she continued to criticize the technician, who was saying, with a very stricken look on her face, "I've been doing this work for over nine years."  The customer's last comment as she pulled open the door and stepped out was, " Maybe it's time you found new work!"

For a few moments there was complete silence in the room.  And then, one by one, as the technician stood there looking devastated, the other customers (including myself) and the staff that witnessed the event, began shoring up the technician's self-confidence with statements like: "She's obviously having a bad day."  "Just remember it's her problem, not yours."  "Somebody must have done something in her Wheaties this morning!"  At that one, we all laughed, including the technician. 

As things settled down, the woman working with me said, "That was terrible. That woman is the manager and she is wonderful at her job.  There is nothing she wouldn't do to help a customer or one of us.  I've seen her bend over backward so many times to make things right.  She really didn't deserve that."  I responded: "It probably didn't really have anything to do with the service the client received.  I have a feeling she was having a bad day and it just caught up with her, and your manager was the unlucky recipient.  I'll bet by the time she gets home and has time to think about it, that woman is going to be beating herself up for how she acted." 

Have you ever had an experience like that, where words pop out of your mouth seemingly of their own volition, and then later, once you calm down and think about it, you feel like an idiot?  I have!  A number of years ago I went to the dermatologist for something.  It's been so long ago that I don't remember what for, or really any of the details of what occurred. But I remember being in a bad space that day, and something happened while the doctor was examining me that, for whatever reason, didn't sit well with me,  and all of a sudden, I felt this rage bubbling up inside of me, and before I knew it, I was spewing angry words and storming out of the office.

By the time I got home I realized that I was the problem, not the doctor.  And wanting to be accountable for my actions, I sat down and did something I wouldn't have dreamed of doing probably even just a year before: I wrote a note to the doctor, apologizing for my behavior.  Putting it in the mail, I never expected any kind of response from the doctor.  After all, I didn't do it for the doctor's sake.   I did it for myself and my own peace of mind.  I didn't want to keep feeling guilty for how I had behaved. I didn't want the memory to keep coming back to haunt me.

You can probably imagine my surprise a few days later, when I answered my phone and the doctor was on the other end of the line.  She called to tell me how much she and her staff appreciated my note (Yes, unfortunately, she wasn't the only one who had witnessed my outburst.)  and how grateful she was to have an explanation for what had happened, as she admitted she'd been wracking her brain trying to figure out what she'd done wrong.  And although it wasn't easy, I did return to that doctor the next time I needed a dermatologist, and we've have a very good relationship ever since. I have to admit that writing that note was the best thing I could have done, because unless something happens to specifically remind me of it, I never think about that incident.

So what does all that have to do with what happened when I got a haircut? 

Moving to a new town means finding new doctors, a new dentist, and a new hair stylist.  And it isn't do you choose who to go to?  I chose Lenscrafters because that's where I went in Pittsburgh and I hoped that my good experience there would be an indicator of a good experience here, which for me, it was.   I haven't even looked for a new doctor yet - that's an easy one to put off since I'm healthy and not in need of medical attention at the moment.  But as much as I sometimes might wish it would, my hair hasn't stopped growing, so the need for a new stylist was imminent.  I asked Hayden's mom, Erin, for a recommendation and she referred me to a beauty school where she's been going for five or six years and has always been pleased with the service.  I decided to give it a shot.

When you go to a beauty school for services, your stylist is one of the students who has finished the book basics and is now working on real clients to gain experience.  (And because they are still learning, the services are a whole lot cheaper than in a regular salon!) They are supervised by their teachers from beginning to end as they work with each client, so as Callie, my stylist told me, I would leave with an excellent haircut.

She was right: I did leave with a darn good haircut, but the process it took to get me there was one I hadn't expected, and one that could easily have ended up with me storming out of the beauty school just like that woman stormed out of Lenscrafters.

When I was getting my hair cut in Pittsburgh, I think it might have taken the stylist all of  thirty minutes, and that might be stretching it.  As Callie began cutting, and the time stretched  to an hour and fifteen minutes, I was feeling a bit antsy and could feel myself beginning to get impatient ( I was also hungry, which wasn't helping.)  So when she was finally finished, I was grateful that all she had to do was dry my hair and style it and I would be done.  I figured the hard part was over.  Boy was I wrong!

Before she began drying my hair, she turned my chair away from the mirror so the cord on the dryer wouldn't get in her way.  She showed me a couple of different products she was going to use on my hair to give it more volume, and as she turned on the hair dryer, I closed my eyes and just sort of drifted.  The warmth of the dryer's heat, plus the gentle brushing of my hair, lulled me almost to sleep.  And then she was done.  I opened my eyes, and as she turned me back around to face the mirror, it was all I could do NOT to cry!  My hair looked like straw, sticking out in bits and pieces everywhere, and it was puffed out all around my head like an uneven halo.  And behind me in the mirror, I could see Callie's anxious face, waiting for my response.

Almost speechless, I wasn't sure what to say when she asked me how I liked it.  I was hungry, tired of sitting in that chair, my back was beginning to hurt, and I just wanted out of there!  I could feel my anger rising up, and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty if I let it take the course it so badly wanted to take.

I took a couple of deep breaths (Okay, more than a couple!),  mentally telling myself it was going to be alright, it's just a haircut, it will grow back, etc., etc., etc.  I was also aware, somewhere underneath my anger, that Callie was a student and was just learning, and that if I mishandled this, I had the potential to sorely impact her self-confidence.

She waited patiently (fearfully?) for me to respond, and finally, in a quiet, calm voice, (not quite sure how I managed it ) I simply told her I didn't like it and asked her if there was some way she could redo it.   She called her teacher over, explained what she had done, and eventually the issue was resolved.  It required two more shampoos to get out all of the stuff she had put into my hair, and numerous questions to me before she finally got my hair into a style that I wasn't embarrassed to walk out the door with.  By the time I left, I'd been there almost two and a half hours!  But during the entire process, I kept my cool, and my smile, maintained a consistent stream of pleasant conversation, and even generously tipped her and thanked her for her patience when I left. (And believe it or not, I even booked another appointment with her.  The haircut was good, it was just the styling that was ultimately the problem.)

Truth is, a few years ago if this had happened, I would have been like the lady in Lenscrafters, or the way I had been in the doctor's office all those years ago.  So as I went for my walk this morning, and thought back over that entire experience, I patted myself on the back for handling things the way I did, recognizing that all the hard work I had done to heal my old wounds and learn to make better choices, had paid off. 

I'm not going to get a big head over this, or get too full of  myself.  (I'm very aware that the Universe would work to show me pretty quickly that I've still got a lot to learn!) But I know it's important to have recognized how much I've changed, and to congratulate myself for having chosen to respond in a positive way in that situation.  Because I made a better choice, I don't have any guilty feelings, I don't need to write an apology, and I'm sure Callie's self-esteem is in a much better place than it would have been had I done things differently.

One more positive notch on my belt from one more glitch on the path.  A glitch?  Hmmmmm....  As I'm writing this I think maybe I should reconsider that.  Seems like this was more an opportunity than a glitch, an opportunity to remind me that I'm not that same person any more.  Perhaps I'll go back and review some of the other glitches that have been a part of this journey and see what opportunities they lead me to.  I'll let you know if I find anything significant. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

Grateful in spite of the wait

I went for a walk this morning.  I know that doesn't sound like any big deal, but it's only been the last two weeks that I've been able to walk without pain and without a limp.  I've had problems since at least the beginning of April. 

Going up and down stairs was the worst.  I had to maneuver the stairs like I did when I had my knee replaced:  placing each foot on the same stair before being able to move to the next one.  It took me forever to go up or down a set of stairs, and since the only bathroom in my house was on the second floor, I didn't dare wait too long when I felt the urge!  And let's not talk about how challenging it was to do laundry, when the washer and dryer were in the basement and I had to carry the laundry basket down two flights of stairs while trying to hold on to the railing at the same time! ( I really do appreciate the one level living of my condo!) 

The knee pain that was so debilitating initially was caused by not walking properly, and so I got orthotics to put in my shoes to correct the problem.  However, they take a while to work, and in the meantime, I took a nasty fall at the beginning of July which injured both knees and also my right arm.  (Yes, amidst all the packing and lifting for the move, I walked with a limp and didn't have full use of my right arm!) I was beginning to think I was never going to be able to walk without pain again.

So imagine my relief, and surprise, when two weeks ago I got up and the pain in my knee was gone!  I guess the orthotics were finally kicking in, and I'd also had a distance Reiki session from Marty Brennan, during which he focused on my left knee (It was the worst.) and my arm.   I'm sure Marty's healing vibes helped a lot too! What an incredible joy to be able to walk without pain again!

Interesting though, how until we can't, we do things like walking and running and throwing and lifting without much thought.  We simply take it for granted that our bodies will work the way we expect them to work, and don't really appreciate the gift of being able to do what we're able to do, even if what we are able to do is limited.

This realization really hit me hard the day I spent six hours at the DMV waiting in line to get my driver's license.  I had to wait in  line for an hour and twenty minutes just to get a ticket that would entitle me to get served!  When I finally got my ticket, the time stamp said 12:15 PM, and there was a sentence underneath the time stamp that said there were twenty-seven people ahead of me who were also there to transfer their licenses to Tennessee! I knew it was going to be a long wait.

I had to stand for the entire time as I waited to get my ticket, and I was worried that standing so long was going to cause the pain in my knee to come back.  There wasn't even a wall to lean against, and the room was jam packed with people. Along with those of us waiting to transfer our licenses, there were others who were getting their licenses for the first time, and people who were simply renewing their licenses.  There was a sign that kept us informed about how many people in total were waiting to be served, and at the time I got my ticket, that sign reported there were fifty-eight of us altogether!  It was obvious that no one expected such a long wait, because there were  parents with small children, and even entire families that had accompanied the one person who needed the services at the DMV.  One young mother, who was already there when I arrived, had to breast feed her little girl three times while she was there, because the wait was so long.

I finally got my ticket and was able to get a seat, relieved that I could take the weight off my knee.  I could already feel it beginning to ache. Trying to take my focus off my own discomfort, I began to look around the room at some of the others who were also waiting.  That's when I noticed her.  She was a tiny woman: even sitting down it was easy to see how small she was. And if her small stature wasn't enough to catch my eye, the beautiful green and gold sari that she wore certainly did the trick.  But as I looked closer, it was the deep calm and peacefulness that she seemed to effortlessly exude that truly held my attention. 

I knew I was staring, so I made myself look away, but I couldn't keep my eyes off her.  There was just something about her.  She was with a group of people, family members I assumed, and as serene and calm as she was, they were just as loud and fidgety, obviously anxious to be done with their business and out of there.

Another young woman who was a part of that group suddenly stood up, said something to the woman I had been watching, turned and headed toward the counter.  As the woman in the sari began to move to stand up, I saw her reach down and pick up a long stick (It looked like the branch of a tree.) that must have been on the floor beside her. As I watched, she cradled it in her left arm,  and reaching across her body with her right hand, grasped the top of the stick and gently levered herself upward, using the stick to maintain her balance.  It was only when she began walking that I realized she had only one leg!

She moved with such grace and surety that I knew she'd been walking that way for a very long time.  And that peacefulness and calm was still evident as she made her own way up to the counter, unaided.  As I watched her go, I thought of all the complaining I'd done since my knee pain had started; how hopeless I'd felt at times, wondering if I was ever going to be able to walk normally again; and how angry at God I'd been when the pain was at its worst, and  I had so much to do to get ready to move.  Watching her, I felt humbled and a bit ashamed.  Even though I had been in pain, I still had both my legs, and they were both still usable, even though a bit limited, and I'd still had good reason to believe that one day I'd be walking just fine again.  Instead of being grateful for what I had, for what I could do, too often I'd allowed myself to focus on what I couldn't do, which did nothing but bring me down and limit me even more!

I'm very grateful that I was able to take a walk this morning.  Ever since that experience at the DMV, I've made a bigger effort to appreciate all the little things, the everyday things, the things that so often I've taken for granted.  I'm pretty good at offering up a prayer of gratitude for the big things.  I think most of us are.  But I  know I often let the little things go without a thought.  I'm hoping that by being more often in a state of gratitude, it will also make it easier for me to be in that calm and peaceful state that was so evident in that tiny little lady in the beautiful green and gold sari. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to be in her presence that day, even if it did mean a six hour wait at the DMV.