There was a specific moment in time when I finally understood, after decades of confusion and bewilderment, why, even though I think of myself as funny, self-effacing, engaging, and enjoyable to be around, my late husband got so frustrated and yes, furious with me.
And kept saying I was my Mom (oh, yes, my “professionally dissatisfied” Mom).
It was a fight about housekeeping, when after he had meticulously completed a difficult cleaning task I’d asked him to do, I said “hey, that looks great! It would be even better if you also…..” (This is described as “the incident of the cobwebs” in the book I’m writing. I’ll post excerpts when I’m ready.)
Essentially, ‘thanks for that, but now do more, better.’ And he knew that the list of things yet to do, and do better and faster, would be never ending. More, better, faster. Fun, right?
It wasn’t just at home. At work, whenever there were tasks to complete or goals to reach, especially if they were “time bound” (Oh, just take that SMART goal crap and shove it, OK?) I paid much more attention to the work than the worker; cared more about the productivity than the people and persistently telegraphed my anxiety and irritation that things weren’t moving FASTER. Geez, didn’t everyone feel this way? How come everyone who I work with eventually starts avoiding me? Tink-tink, is this thing on?
I’m such a “A” type that I get visibly, rudely frustrated when things don’t move FAST. Everything from how you move your body through space to how you move your thoughts through your mind and out your mouth.
I think I’ve only met one or two people in my life who talk faster than I do. And I’ve met people a foot and a half taller than me who don’t walk as fast as I do.
When I worked downtown, I even came up with a strategy to get around people who weren’t walking fast enough for me. I called it “the briefcase maneuver.” If there were two or three people strolling abreast down the sidewalk, there almost always would be just not-enough room to barge between them and keep barreling on down the street.
So I’d swing my briefcase up in the not-quite-wide-enough gap between them, pretending that I just always walked that way, swinging along with my briefcase, and they’d instinctively look back, flinch away from said swinging briefcase and separate, and through the gap I’d motor.
Now, in my defense, when I telegraphed my frustration it was usually on behalf of my husband and child, when I thought they were becoming frustrated, or bored or anxious that the food wasn’t coming fast enough or the line was too long to get in to the museum, or whatever. But it only made our child more anxious and my husband angrier.
As a parent of a young adult on the autism spectrum, a young adult who used to be an infant, then a toddler, a tween and and then a teen, I’ve had a lot of practice with patience. And I’ve always tried to quell that zippety quickness with persons who have differences or physical disabilities. And I never cease to be amazed at my child’s ability to bounce back, to forgive, to persevere and to keep trying and keep learning. Even if it took 45 minutes to button one button, or six months to learn how to tie a shoe. And now that I’m on my own as a parent, I marvel at my late husband’s stamina in raising our child, as a stay-at-home-Dad, to adulthood.
When Mike entered hospice, I thought that A-type briefcase-barreling, busy-bee, more, faster, better, get-outa-my-way person, was gone for good.
And for the most part, she is. I’m able to slow down, allow others to go first, to breathe and wait patiently, to smile more and remind myself that every person deserves respect, has their own “stuff,” which may include hidden tragedies, disabilities or disease, and every person should be approached from a kind and loving perspective.
Sounds great. But in practice, on a day-to-day basis, it is difficult and exhausting. For me, anyway.
Case in point: the fall excursion, part one.
I thought the orchard closed at 3. We had things to do in the morning, but we headed out there at 1. On a Monday.
And it was mobbed. C’mon, it’s Monday! A school day! I thought we’d have time to sit and eat lunch, and a nice pleasant stroll to pick some apples.
Twenty minute wait for a table, but there are hot dogs over there. And you can buy your apple-picking bags right over there.
Right over there in that line that isn’t moving.
And the slowest moving human I have ever seen (at least it seemed like that at the time) behind the counter.
I am unable to process the idea of a working person who has no sense of urgency, ever, even when there is a line wrapping all the way around her counter.
Oh boy. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Adult child is fine, looking around at all the kitsch. Adorable kid in front of us is well behaved and patient unlike the two other kids in front of him.
And the counter person with the truck-stop hairdo (wait, too critical, excise that thought, toxic, toxic thought, she can wear her hair any way she wants to) is moving at a snail’s pace, wrapping soooommmee dooooonuuuttss forrr the fiiiirrst personnnnn in liiiieeeen.
God, help me. Patience, breathe, smile.
Ten minutes later, our turn.
And in response to my question she tells me the orchard is open until 5, not 3.
OK, hot dogs. Adult child is very hungry, it is almost 2.
And another extremely slow moving human with no apparent sense of urgency.
10 minutes later, two hot dogs. OK, adult child is fed.
And we made it on the haywagon and we had a great ride around the orchard and we picked more than enough apples for a pie.
And those very slow moving people were polite, even though they could tell I was working hard to quell my inner zippety-bitch, and we had plenty of time left over for the big slide, which adult child loves. And I love to watch the happiness and glee.
OK! Fall Excursion part two should be much easier!