For the most part, my retail customers are great. I love the camaraderie, the shared humour, and the satisfaction of helping clients find a quality item they both need and want. That said, there are times when certain customers irritate me beyond my capacity to be even semi-tolerant. I have a variety of ways of dealing with the latter including venting to my colleagues (when in search of a requested piece in the back room) and transforming into an oh-so-neutral and coolly polite clerk. When I am feeling good, however—when I am at peace within myself—my tactics change: I centre myself and remember two things. One, that this annoying adult was once a baby—a tiny innocent soul who was partly molded into who he or she is today by events beyond their control; and two, that I have no idea what demons are affecting his or her life. Maybe this person’s loved one has just been diagnosed with a terminal disease, they got fired or perhaps dropped by their supposed soul mate. Haven’t we all had to do business when we’d rather yell obscenities from the top of a roof? Haven’t we all, consciously or not, transferred frustration onto the nearest person: sales clerk, the driver in front of us; our children?
I have learned, and continue to learn, that judging someone’s behaviour and then reacting to it in a negative manner is seldom uplifting for either party. While it may give momentary satisfaction, the long-term effects only produce a chronic social disgruntlement at best, and alienation, depression and violence, at worst. It doesnt mean that I am a star pupil of these lessons except to say that I am discovering that life is, indeed, a work in progress. We can only keep coming back to centre—however long it takes—back to a place where we know we are all in this together.
Excerpt from Notes from the Bottom of the Box: The Search for Identity by a Modern-Day Renaissance Woman.
In the memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran, the author, Azar Nafisi, recalls words spoken in defense of a literary professor who chose to speak up for a man on trial for treason in 1980s Iran. In the political climate of the time, both treason and this act of defense had potentially lethal consequences.
Analyzing the professor’s action, Nafisi wrote:
“Such an act … can only be accomplished by someone who is engrossed in literature, has learned that every individual has different dimensions to his personality … if you understand their different dimensions you cannot easily murder them” (2004, p. 118).
After reading this passage, I found myself thinking not of literature but of my work as a BodyMind therapist. Similar to someone “engrossed in literature”, my training and practice supports me in understanding the concept that we have different personality dimensions, or parts, within us. For example, most of us have a part that wants to go to work because it pays for our lifestyle and another part that hates going because it interferes with that same way of being. Facilitating an awareness of our multi-dimensional selves helps prevent me from judging myself and others harshly. That said, my practice is a work in progress and has its challenges around judgment and perception, as the following story will tell.
I was working as a practitioner in a detox centre: BodyMind therapy, energy work, reflexology—whatever was needed to help relieve physical and/or emotional pain. A new intake, Tom, came to see me. Tom had been physically abusive to his partner, Lilly. I knew this because Lilly, a past client of mine, had confided in me during our sessions. I met Tom for the first time a few days after Lilly died from complications of congenital heart disease. Tom was a mess. He was not only detoxing from heroin and crack but was visibly upset about his girlfriend’s death. He loved her, he said, cared for her, was devoted to her. It was hard for me to listen. In fact, it was hard not to hate him. To hear his “lies” asserting themselves against the delight that was Lilly disturbed me on a deep level. He was the antithesis of all the beauty and laughter she characterized—the naïve frivolity she embodied and the lightness she passed on to those with whom she shared time. Here he was trying to sell me on his heroic qualities when I, in my place of judgment, knew the truth… or did I?
Stay tuned for more weekly excerpts from Notes from the Bottom of the Box. If you like this blog, please like me on my Modern-Day Renaissance Woman Facepage. Thanks for the support!
If you like my writing, check out my other blog, The Interdependent Life.