Lessons from a Nasty Angry Customer. And Plato.***

Yesterday at work a customer bitched me out, going so far as to demand to speak to a manager. (This was noteworthy given the fact that, as a rule, we have awesome customers and, also as a rule, I am a great sales person, but that is neither here nor there…) I dutifully summoned the top person in the store to the register where Nasty Angry Customer and I were standing across from one another, separated by a counter and the privacy of our own lives.  I have to say, I was perplexed as to what exactly she was so upset about.  As she “recalled” (and I use the term loosely) our exchange to the manager I wondered if we had, in actuality, even been in the same room.  Her anger was so acute, her words so venomous that I literally shook my head not out of disagreement (which I certainly felt) but in an effort to shake my brain around enough to make sense of what was happening.  Clearly she was upset.  Less clear was over what, exactly.*

As I stood there,  I recalled the words that my oldest, dearest and most even keeled-friend in the world shared with her son at his Bar Mitzvah last weekend; “Be kind to people, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.  (I feel compelled to note here that it was a kick-ass BM service and party.  Upon arrival home I needed a shower and three ibuprofen: telltale signs of a successful party.)  (Further noteworthy is the fact that aforementioned friend is Catholic yet managed to throw the best BM party ever. ❤ ) To be professional I had to be kind.  More to the point, to be true to myself I had to be kind.

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As Nasty Angry Customer continued on her diatribe, recalling in vivid detail an exchange between us that never happened, I stopped feeling defensive (and sweaty) and began to feel compassion for whatever it was that had tied her panties into such a tight bunch.  She was accompanied by her young son who, despite being ridiculously cute, I suspect (having had two of my own**) had been propped upon her last nerve since about an hour before she came into the store, if not before.  Maybe her husband had been a jerk before he left the house in the morning.  Perhaps she is dealing with financial difficulties, or ailing parents or had an argument with a friend.  It could be worse: a lost job, an unfaithful spouse or a sick child.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that she was obviously having a rough time and I was an easy target who had the choice to make things better or make them worse.

It seems that the whole world is struggling these days…and it shows.  People are shorter tempered, angrier and more fearful.  It is easy to think that you are the only one who is dealing with frustrations, disappointments and dread.  Easier still is taking it out on other people.  I can assure you that nothing that happens in a retail environment should result in the degree of fury that Nasty Angry Customer unleashed on me.  It could easily have happened that, on the heels of my beating, I would have turned on the next unwitting person to cross my path.  I am proud to know that that is not what happened.  I stopped my brain and reminded myself that I had no idea what is going on in her life and that it was far easier to just be kind.

I hope each day, as Jess continues to navigate the life of a nearing-pubescent-transgender person, that the world will not judge, comment, criticize or attack her but will stop and get out of themselves long enough to be kind since most have no idea what is going on in her life.  In fact, most have no idea what is going on in my life, or anyone else’s for that matter.  Aside from those we are most intimate with, we simply do not know.  Even those we share our lives don’t always let on just how hard things are.

Be kind.  Be compassionate.  Allow someone like Nasty Angry Customer to rip you a new one every now and again.  Everyone has their struggles…you, me and them.

*I had plenty to be upset about myself…if nothing else, I was just forced to pony up $600 for two new tires which blew out because of the ineptitude of some town workers…

**Yes, for the first seventeen years of my parenting I was a mom of boys.  Despite the dolls, wigs and abundance of pink, Georgie was a whole lot of boy in many, many ways.

***And, of course, MFKG: my rock.

Ten Tires

File Under:  This stuff usually only happens to me, but, alas, this time I had company.

It had been a frustrating day from the get go.  I had awoken at 3 a.m., 5:15 a.m. and finally 6:30 a.m.  Jess didn’t feel like getting up to go to school so I needed to utilize my best reverse psychology (“You will have to explain to Mr. P why you are late…matters not to me”) before 8 a.m.  I had been up to my eyeballs in “administrative” type crap around the house and was more than ready to see the light of day and get some fresh air.  I awaited Jess’s arrival home from school (which always comes way sooner than I expect it to) so that I could give her a healthy snack (so she had candy corn…don’t judge me) and take her to the metal-smithing class on the other side of town.

On the way back, I stopped at a market and picked up some fresh turkey in preparation for the sandwich I am planning on making to take to work tomorrow.  (I have finally realized that having an apple and a Quest bar is not sufficient lunch for me.)

I took the familiar route home, the one that I take at least once a day, every day and happily breathed in the perfect air that I wait all year for.  It was 62 degrees, clear and delightful.  My hair looked great.  I wasn’t sticky from the air.  The windows and roof were open.  I felt the stresses of the morning spent hunched over files and notebooks drift away.

And then it happened.

Thud.

What the fuck was that?

I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach and instantly recognized the sound and hoped that  is was not what I thought it was.  I had hit something (as in ill-covered construction, not a living thing!) in the road and had a flat.  Oh, wait, no…make that two flats.  Yes, the entire passenger side of my car was immediately leaning several inches into the ground.  Damn it.

But wait, what is that I see in my rearview mirror?  Two, yes, two other cars who have met a similar fate, their owner’s standing alongside their sloping cars  looking dismayed.  So there we are, on the edge of a busy thoroughfare, my little Lexus, a late-model Highlander and a Subaru with New Hampshire plates.  As I headed toward the two folks who would soon become my new friends, we heard a familiar thud and were joined by a middle-aged gentleman and his brand new Porsche.

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I started to laugh.  I actually did.  I had a clear choice: I could either laugh or I could throw myself into the road.  As I contemplated my options, the next victim pulled into formation with us and we were we joined by a nurse in a minivan on her way home from what was, I am guessing, a double shift.  (She later told me that she had just purchased new tires.)  In case you lost count, that is five cars all disabled in a five-minute span by something menacing in the road.

Once I stopped seeing the humor and began to feel the rage, I called the local police.  Funny thing I learned: we were not the first five cars to suffer the fate of something in the road.  They had fielded five, yes, a different five, such calls earlier in the day.  And, it turns out, an additional, are you ready for this?, twenty cars in the past twenty-four hours…all with two flats on the passenger side.

Okay, huge nuisance, but surely the town is going to take care of it, right?  Wrong.  The cop who finally arrived to check things out told me, “In my twenty years on the force I have never seen the town pay for something like this.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

So now my car is at the dealer three towns away.  I am going to need two new tires, a ride to get my car, several hundred dollars to get it out of their garage and no one is going to take responsibility?

I am a little bit pissed.

But, (and forgive my Pollyannaism), no one got hurt, it is only money (and mounds of aggravation).  That said, I see a carefully worded Letter to the Editor and call to the town in my immediate future.  I am tempted to send them the bill for my tires, my time, my turkey that didn’t get to the fridge as soon as I would have liked, my future anxiety over driving down that (or any other) road in town and my generalized frustration with life.

Does this have anything to do with Jessie or her transition?  No, it does not.  But this is my blog and I will vent as I see fit.

Now, if anyone wants to juggle my day tomorrow and figure out how I am going to get to work, take Jess to two appointments and pick up my car, let me know.

Damn.

p.s. Thanks to MLS for collecting me.

Harrison the Accidental Blogger

Toward the end of the school year Harrison was asked to be among a select few students who would speak to their peers about what made them different.  His speech now appears on the home page of TeenBeing.com:  A magazine published by Scholastic and dedicated to the health and well-being of middle and high school students.

He gets way less space on this blog than his sister (and I think he likes it that way), but his adventure is no less intense.  And, despite the fact that he was a little unpleasant (I am being kind) in the weeks leading up to his departure for his freshman year of college, I still think he is the bomb.

http://teenbeing.com/relationships/this-weeks-teen-flaunt-harrison/

With Love and Thanks to Zachary

This weekend I accompanied a dear friend to the cemetery to pay respects to the infant son he buried nearly seventeen years ago.  We snuck onto the grounds (it was both Yom Kippur and Shabbat: two days during which cemeteries are “closed”) in the company of many other folks feeling the same pull to visit those that they had lost.  As we made our way towards the back, we read the names on the headstones commenting on how long some had lived, how soon others had been taken.  We noticed familial names that we recognized (if even in just a general Jewish way) and those which smacked of times gone by: Esthers, Hymans, Sauls and Bessies.  We kept our eyes to the ground, searching for stones to leave so that Zachary would know that he had been visited and that he had not been forgotten.  When I spied one under some dirt that could almost have passed for a heart I picked it up and cleaned it off fondling it in my hand, attempting a shine, as we made our way through the grounds.

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It happened to be a beautiful day with a gentle breeze, the heat and humidity that had blanketed us for the prior several days gone.  The sky was clear and the walk helped to clear our heads as we neared Zachary’s stone which lay, quietly and unobtrusively, surrounded by others who had lived long, and one can hope, full lives.

At the time of his death, I did not know Zachary nor did I know his father.  He lived just three days.  Yesterday his father spoke to him with an undeniable love, his voice periodically cracking yet strong and steadfast.  He told his son how deeply he is missed and loved while assuring him that he would never be forgotten and that he had, in his short life, made his father want to be a better man.

I stood alongside him silently in a show of moral support but with the profound understanding that I could not begin to imagine his pain.

I often, on these pages, rant, rave and carry on about the frustrations of raising an outside-the-box kinda kid like Jess.  I complain, I whine, I lament, I opine and I bitch.   I too often take for granted that I am able to see her, talk to her, watch her successes (and failures) and am never forced to wonder what might have been.  I am afforded the opportunity to appreciate the horrid experience for what it will teach me as a parent, a person.  I am able to hug her after I yell at her, I can boast of her accomplishments and can (at least try to) eschew her shenanigans.  Yes, she can be nearly impossible at times, but I am afforded the opportunity to walk alongside her when she is, knowing that there are many times that she is not.

It was not just Zachary who died on his third day of life.  His father lost a bit of his spirit that day.  He has worked hard to channel it into his two young sons, loving them with all his being.  He strives not to be the perfect father, but the best father he can be.  He has made a choice to carry on, not forgetting Zachary, rather making sure his short life is not forgotten.

I needed that shake-up, that glimpse outside of myself.

In the Jewish calendar we are starting a new year.  We have asked for forgiveness for our sins and transgressions.  We are starting fresh, working towards being the best versions of ourselves.  We are taking a collective breath and working hard to appreciate how fortunate we are in the many ways that we are afforded the opportunity to be a part of the process of life.

It isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it is so damned hard that it seems impossible.  I always say, “You/I can do this”.  If we are being honest, I don’t always quite believe that to be true.  Zachary is with me now…reminding me that it is.

Iguana Cry

It is well documented on these pages that I am not a crier.  In fact, I cry with such infrequency that when I do, it is rather epic.  Envision a spigot being thrown to full throttle and all the tears that a normal person may have shed over the past year gushing out in the form of heaves, gulps and near convulsions.  Then double it.  It is that ugly.  It also results in a red nose, a shiny forehead and swollen, painful iguana orbs.* It is not for the faint of heart.

Actual picture of my actual eye.  Okay, not really, but might just as well be.

Actual picture of my actual eye. Okay, not really, but might just as well be.

Last night I had one such episode.  A series of annoying, upsetting, irritating, frustrating and, yes, infuriating events (none nearly as epic as the crying) sent me reeling.  It all snuck up on me (as it always does, dammit) and knocked me on my ass.  At one point, about an hour into it**, I dragged myself to  the bathroom to throw water on my face and somehow wound up crouched on the floor which, it was pointed out to me***,  was a position which Amy Weinhouse  had likely assumed more than once: knees pulled to my chest, head leaning (pathetically) against the vanity, mascara smeared (pathetically)  in streaks down my face, hair tangled (that was more because I hadn’t done anything with it in the morning and it would have looked that awful under any circumstances, yet somehow the added ugliness made it worse), nose red, skin shiny.

I was profoundly sad.  My brain and heart were not only on overload, they ached.  All I wanted to do was to crawl under the sink, or in the tub, or into bed and, well, suck my thumb.  And rock back and forth.  A glass of wine wouldn’t have hurt, either.  There were so many thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns coursing through my mind, fighting to get out that I almost forgot, midway through it all, what had set me off.  (Almost.)

In the throes of my psychotic episode I did have two distinct moments of clarity: 1.) I was relieved that I didn’t have to work in the morning because I knew, from past such episodes, that I was going to be a hot, iguana-eyed mess in the morning and, 2.) I knew, deep down in the bowels of my heaving tears, that I was going to be okay and I recognized that I am never alone in this life.

Once I finally got myself together and had the good sense to ice my eyes (in vain…they were puffed not-quite-closed this morning) (see iguana comment) and have a glass of wine, I crawled into bed and did something I have not done in weeks.  I slept all night.  I woke up ugly, but with eight uninterrupted hours of sleep under my belt.

Clearly it all had to get out.   The miles-long walks and hours-long workouts (okay, maybe not hours long, but…) hadn’t purged me of the angst.  It had escaped me that it was imperative that I disinfect my body of the impressive emotional poisons that had accumulated and bloated my psyche.  I did not plan it nor, while it was happening, did I particularly enjoy it.  I also did not, again, while it was happening, “appreciate” it (that is something my therapist and I have discussed: appreciating something horrid for what it will teach you and where it will get you.  Yeah, I rolled my eyes at it when she first said it, too, but it has its merits.) In hindsight, however, I am glad that it happened.

I awoke this morning well-rested.  Yeah, my eyes were swollen to the point that when I applied mascara (which I would never go without) it smeared all over my eyelids, mostly because they were ballooning out as though I had been pumped up intravenously with soy sauce.  And, yeah, my pallor was indicative of an ailing iguana.  My hair, meanwhile, was a snarled, knotted mess thanks to my coma-like siesta.  But (and this is a big but) my head was clear.

I have a new perspective.  I have re-established a grip on things and am emoting in a more productive way.  Last night I thought (repeatedly) that I am a fraud and the “you can do this” mantra I have been spouting was a load of crap.    Today I am back on my own bandwagon and feeling (almost) in control.  I am not sure if I can credit “Bawl-a-Palooza 2013”, the resulting sleep or a combination of the two, but , either way, I am back in business.  Until next time.

*I always thought that my eyes did this because they are so light.  There is, apparently, and according to my doctor who I saw this morning for an unrelated issue, no scientific evidence of that.

**Total time: 3.5 hours.  I told you it was epic.

***By RRL who, along with MLS, came to my rescue when I sent out an SOS text. BTS and DTL hand-held from afar.  xoxo to them all.  Be grateful you weren’t a textee this time.

Sew Proud

On Wednesday, Jess decided that she wanted a new dress.  To be clear, she wanted to make said dress…not buy it.  When I pushed back (ever so slightly)(because I knew I couldn’t help her)(I have no domestic skills)(but I do make a hell of a chicken soup)(that counts for something, right?) she called Grace to ask her the name of the fabric store where nothing costs more than $2.99 a yard which, even to my uneducated-in-the-language-of-sewing mind, seemed cheap, er, inexpensive enough to take the ride to parts unknown.  Remember, Jess has been out of camp since July 28th and is not starting school until September 9th, so it is safe to say I would have driven just about anywhere and laid out cash for just about anything that would keep her busy for a few hours.*

We went to the store and chose the pattern,  fabric, thread and notions necessary and headed home to start the project which I was going to be able to help her with exactly, well, not at all.  In anticipation of a frustrating afternoon ahead, I asked my nav where the closest Dairy Queen was and, in hopes of capturing a pre-emptive soothing, drove the twenty-seven minutes and enjoyed a small, chocolate dipped cone.  (Jess opted for a peanut butter cup Blizzard.)

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As it turns out, I need not have taken in the calories after all.

With a little help from Jane (my next door neighbor who can do all those domestic things that I cannot) in the pinning department, this is the final result.

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*When I read this to her and she heard that sentence, she looked at me, smiling and wide-eyed and said, “Really?!?”

p.s. If you happen to see her at temple next week in said dress…let her know what you think!

p.p.s. I know the zipper is a little crooked, but that just adds charm.

p.p.s. Yes, she owns a real mannequin.  Doesn’t every not quite twelve year-old?