Katie and I always call each other when something happens in our lives. Well, I say call, but really, we send each other copious voice notes. Voice notes feel like a conversation is held in suspension just for us to open; real time, paused until convenient.
Many times, Katie and I will be airing our frustrations and angrily say “I’m sure they were just having a really bad day.” Frustrated, we press send.
“I’m sure they were just having a really bad day.”
With one sentence, we have validated their feelings and justified their behaviour. Granted, usually this is in response to bad customer service, or subpar treatment. But there it is, our acceptance that everyone is human and sometimes act in a certain way because of the environment they are in, perhaps a lack of serotonin that day, or maybe a colossal issue in their life is unfolding. We just so happened to receive the brunt of it.
What are we really saying when we say “I’m sure they were just having a really bad day”? We are saying that we forgive them. We are acknowledging the unpredictability of being human.
One thing that keeps me up at night is that perhaps people have experienced the worst of me. I’ll give you an example. A couple of weeks ago, I had a really bad experience with a well-known-train-company official who ended up giving me a panic attack. I had lost my purse, so without access to my money, I felt like a trapped animal, and this person was not respecting my boundaries when I asked them to leave me alone. I must have asked them this about 6 times, yet they kept shouting at me and refused to leave me alone. Strangers had to step in and Katie, on FaceTime, advocated for me to this official whilst I was hyperventilating and trying to calm down. (I made a full complaint and the individual is being retrained in respect and human decency lol)
It was utterly humiliating.
When I turn this event over and over in my head, I don’t wonder why they behaved this way, but I ask myself why I responded. I put this individual’s behaviour down to them having a bad day and I forgive them. Yet I can’t forget the fact that they saw me at my most vulnerable, and strangers must have seen me as weak.
Repeatedly I am confronted with people invading my boundaries when I am in a situation of vulnerability. I feel angry at myself for not remaining calm and letting this train official’s bad behaviour not show itself up. I feel angry at myself for reacting to their words and actions. In my head, I want to be a calm young women who advocates for myself, and I want to be respected when I do so.
My counsellor looked at me through the screen when I explained this situation to her, and she said “but you got yourself home.” Yes, I do feel gratitude that I did manage to get myself home after being in a vulnerable situation, with no access to anything to help me. I got myself home. I did advocate for myself in my weakness, and I tried my hardest to let them know the severity of my situation. Ultimately, they were the ones who ignored it and carried on.
When I meditate or practice my yoga, I ask myself “Why can’t you extend this understanding into your every day?”
I am utterly biased towards Katie and her life, and often say “but that wasn’t you, you were having a difficult day” or “you were so tired, let it go!” My continuous kindness towards my sister highlighted a kindness I restrict to myself.
Yesterday I realised that I am allowed to have bad days too. I want to extend my understanding to myself and forgive myself for reacting because (funnily enough!) I am human.
In my yoga practice today, the teacher said “in your moments of overwhelm, return to your breath. When you feel jealousy, anger, forgive yourself and breathe.” The words went straight into my heart. I was surprised that this role model to me, who represents calm in chaos and kindness, also struggles with negative emotion. It’s like the universe has been reminding me that every single person is human.
I feel like a little bit of healing went on today. I contemplated a picture of my younger self, and I welled up. In that moment, I knew that self-forgiveness was a necessary component for the next stages of my life. How could I not be understanding to that little girl who is just trying to move through her life?
Sometimes, I just have bad days. Serotonin levels may fluctuate in my brain. Maybe a colossal life event is taking place and I can’t maintain a calm outlook. Outward presentations may come down to something as simple as a human need like hunger, dehydration, fatigue. This realisation unwound something in me. My strive to be perfect, calm and wise drifted away from me.
Finally, I have been returning to another thought. When I was younger I looked at my mum and said
“I want to feel it all. I want to feel heartbreak, anger, pain so that I can really feel happiness, love and joy.”
She laughed at me, I think. I can’t quite remember.
So, the final lesson I am learning is that to berate myself so much for being human is to berate myself for feeling the lows that help me to feel the highs.
I invite for you, my friend, to extend understanding to yourself and to look lovingly at moments where you haven’t presented your best self, and accept those moments for what they were. Just moments, my friend. Moments we can learn from. Do not forget you have a future for a reason.
Remember, most of the time, actions are the symptom of something much bigger going on.
A Song For You: Voilà by Barbara Pravi