I’m a stubborn person. Anyone who has met me for more than five minutes knows it and the people who love me tolerate it. The fact that they tolerate it is testimony to how much they must love me because honestly, I can be a pill sometimes. There are times where I’ll stop and tell myself, “Oh my God, Caitlin, shut up. You’re being annoying.” I get passionate and excitable easily and if I get a hold of something, I don’t let go until it’s forcibly removed from my jaws.
However, there comes a time when chewing on the fat until there’s no flavor to be had can get really harmful to myself and my interpersonal relationships. Over the years, slowly but surely, I’ve learned to pick my battles a little more wisely. Some of this is time and basic maturity and some of this is from being a parent. If I engaged in every debate with Abby, I’d not get anything done. Quite frankly, the kid can be really, REALLY convincing sometimes. It’s like arguing with a younger version of myself. Damned if we’re going to have another lawyer in the family….shit.
Last night, I encountered someone difficult. The details are not important but a business transaction turned sour and devolved into personal attacks on my character and conduct, to which I do not take lightly. You can literally call me anything under the sun and I’ll laugh (now – before, it would have me seething mad – but I’ve matured…a bit), but there are two things you do not call me and they are this: a thief and a liar. I am neither. I have never stolen a thing a day in my life since I was four and my momma caught me taking spools of thread from a sewing store, hemmed me up, and made me return the items with a tearful apology. The women behind the counter said I could have the items and my momma said, very forcefully and seriously, “I am not raising a thief.”
That stuck with me, or traumatized me (depending on your view of it), but the end result is that I cannot steal so I stand by my momma’s actions and I’ve done the same with my own child. Children don’t understand that taking things without paying is stealing but when they do it, ignoring it is excusing the behavior and complicity encouraging it. It’s a teachable moment. If I forget a pack of sodas under my cart and get out without paying, I turn around and replace it. If I hit someone’s car in a parking lot, I don’t drive away. This doesn’t make me a good person – it’s just what’s expected of me as a human being – so I don’t deserve or want accolades for it; they’re just facts.
Last night was a teachable moment. I was going back and forth with this difficult person while I was rushing to get ready to teach art therapy, where my calmness and levelheadedness is a matter of professionalism. I take my position very seriously and I love and care about my students very much so if I’m not on my game, they learn very little. Yet, nonetheless, I spiraled because I’m human and I let this difficult person “occupy space in my head rent free”. I seethed and vented and then I realized what I was doing and stopped. I apologized to my class, put down my phone, and used the moment to teach a lesson. Some of my students, as part of their own recovery, offered me advice on handling the stress positively. I’ve often said and tonight cemented the thought even more that I learn far more from them than they do from me.
My daughter even weighed in before we left the house and asked me why I was so frustrated (it wasn’t hard to tell and she’s empathetic naturally). I told her I was dealing with a stupid person that was making me upset. She said, simply, “Stop texting him.” She also went on to tell me to tell him that he was “dead to me” (where did she learn that?!) and she would send her “owl bear” after him. Good Lord, I love that child so much. Even after wise words from my 6 year old, I still was spiraling when we reached the rescue mission to teach my class. Like I said, I’m stubborn.
But, all in all, it was a learning and teaching moment. I calmed, taught my class, got and gave some good insight, and showed them that everyone is human and everyone can make mistakes. It’s not how you hit the mat but how you get back up that is the worthier part. I went home, got Abby to bed like normal, calmed down with a bowl of homemade ice cream after venting a bit to a friend (I’m human) and watched Logan (which is a phenomenal movie and everyone should watch it but I might be bias).
I can’t sit here and say “don’t let people rent space in your head for free” or anything akin to that because I have a hard time with it myself. I can’t tell someone to be perfect and non-human when I can’t achieve the same, nor should I expect to achieve the same. I will falter and fall and let stupid people get the best of me but if I don’t learn something from it for the future, then I’ve really failed.
With a fresher perspective and some good sleep, this morning I was able to tackle the problem from a different angle that ended up being more positive, more productive, and more enlightening. I didn’t have to compromise my morals and I stated my “case” calmly and rationally (not to the difficult person – that was going nowhere fast – I went to someone whose opinion actually mattered).
At the end of the day, this person accusing me of being a thief and a liar didn’t make me that and I shouldn’t have taken it so seriously. It stung my pride and I let it fester. Now that I’ve cleaned out the proverbial wound (in record time, no less), I can move on about my day. I don’t feel the need to explain “what happened” because it’s immaterial and counterproductive.
Case closed. Squatter evicted from my headspace. Moving onward and upward!