‘Beauty is not in the face, beauty is a light in the heart’
The other day I was in the supermarket and must have needed a reminder of how awful life is for some folk as I had – ta-da ‘An Encounter’!
A woman had left her cart parked in the middle of the aisle and as I was having difficulty trying to manouvre around it I gave it a wee push to the side, which, it appears, made said woman mad as all get out…… and I was the sudden recipient of a shot of venom that could have felled a lumberjack! While I stood frozen in stunned silence she finished her tirade about my general incompetence as a human being with the words “……..you old bitch!”
Now I’m a woman with some understanding of the human condition and I know that when you scratch someone and reveal such raw hatred you have met a very unhappy being. One should be filled with compassion at such misery – but this One wasn’t. This One reared up and said indignantly “Excuse Me?”
She was tall and I am not, so there must have been some authority in those two words as she kind of backed off, not making eye contact and muttering under her breath.
I stood staring blindly at the assorted sweet potatoes I had been reaching for, trying to remove the venom that had been hurled at me and calm my indignation. It took a few moments.
I pondered my role and took responsibility – lesson learned – never touch the shopping cart of an unhappy woman! But still I was rattled and indignant. I couldn’t shake it off.
A couple of aisles further on and I bumped into YD also doing her shopping and the encounter was poured out to her. She knew immediately who it was and reported that she had also had an encounter with the same woman moments previously – ‘murderous’ was her description. “And she has a child with her” said YD “he’s pale and thin poor kid.” So it wasn’t just me, it wasn’t personal – it was all about this poor unhappy person. We just happened to be there.
I didn’t feel any better though and felt ashamed to admit that I had not noticed the child in my encounter – that’s how rattled I was.
The incident stayed with me, I put it down to the intensity of unhappiness in that woman and it was not until the following morning when I woke that the real reason made itself known.
She had called me ‘an old bitch’. And it wasn’t the ‘bitch’ bit that mattered – it was the ‘old’.
I lay in bed giggling – she’d caught me out! My inner picture of myself as eternally young was crushed – she had looked at me and seen ‘old’. And that one word had sent me spiraling out of self-confidence into panicky ego-driven indignation. Ah!
When I was a young woman in my 20’s, my favourite aunt had told me of her struggles with her aging appearance. She was in her late 60’s at the time and yet felt herself inwardly to be a young and vibrant woman. She was strolling down the street one day and saw the reflection in a shop window of an old lady bustling along, walking towards her. She noted the woman was wearing a similar coat and was thinking how much nicer the coat looked on her than the old lady. As she got closer to the mirrored shop window she realised it was herself and was horrified. She said, “From that time on my self confidence was eroded – I had to work very hard to remember I am more than what my outer appearance says.” She was thoughtful a moment then added, “And wise people see that.”
Now I know what she meant.
So I now have a sense of gratitude for the encounter with the unhappy lady in the supermarket [while hoping she gets some help for her anger issues!]. Yes I am getting older, and if you choose that is all you will see. But my world is a rich place made of a life time of experiences, adventures, lessons learned and non-material wealth gathered. It is a place full of love and contentment.
Come visit me here sometimes and share it!
I had never seen this post Pauline, oh, how I can relate though!
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Wow, Pauline. What a brilliant post. I’m not a fan of either word, and though I understand her unhappiness, I know too how hard it can be to have such vitriol tossed at your feet. You’ve found amazing perspective on the incident. Interesting, too, that your daughter should be shopping at the same time, and encountered the same thing.
You’re right of course, that this woman has tremendous unhappiness and anger in her life. I wonder if her child stands a chance at growing up differently or if he/she will feel cowed and worthless. I hear mothers say terrible things to children in the store at times and it breaks me heart. I remind myself that someone talked to them that way, too.
I recently worked with an emotionally abusive clients, and finally put an end to the business relationship after she called me ‘stupid.’ It’s been hard to shake off the experience, not because of the name calling, but because she didn’t value the work or the results.
I know – it is so hard to deal with the unhappiness of others when they are so unconscious and just need to strike out to relieve their own discomfort. These, of course, are all people who have chosen to take no responsibility for their own lives and are searching for someone or something to make it better – when we fail to do so, or place them into a position where consciousness and self responsibility are required we become the brunt of their anger.
I have to say that even though I know this so well, from my own journey and from my coaching work it is still a challenge to deal with in the moment. What this woman taught me was that when it rankles too deeply then I have an issue to look at for myself – in this case ‘don’t remind me I’m old!’ 🙂 As a result of this incident I did some self evaluation and arrived at the conclusion that whilst I am no longer youthful in years, my heart is growing ever younger and I am happy with this state of being – obviously before I wasn’t!
Now I find I am grateful for her brief and unpleasant foray into my world and send her peace and the hope of some self awareness so that she can begin to heal.
I am pleased that you value yourself enough to end a working relationship that is toxic to you – That is a round of applause and a happy dance right there! You must have been really challenging to her on a level that she wasn’t willing to go to. Her loss!
I was once in a store and witnessed a man turn on another man who had spoken harshly to his child. The anger pouring out of the first man was so frightening to witness…….. he obviously had unresolved issues with his father and bang out it all came….. He did that child no great deed that day. I know from my childhood that if my parent was ever outed publicly we paid for it dearly once behind her closed door again!
These days I concentrate on knowing when I can influence another way or a new thought – though I don’t very often wait to be asked, and that is a great fault of mine [which I am working on] – and where I can’t I trust that someone else will. Destiny is an odd thing which we cannot begin to get our heads around and because we cannot see the full journey of another I have learned to trust that each one of us will bear and learn and grow from our own experiences. We can however always offer love and empathy and sometimes that is all we can do to help. It is often enough!
What a fantastic post Pauline, I’m really glad you mentioned it so I could come back and enjoy. I must applaud your brilliant and resilient self. I think I would have been mortified and/or very offended depending on HER age. She made it so personal sounding. She’s obviously very good at being angry and knows how to push buttons. I can’t even imagine what’s going on in her life that she would consider that’d be ok to say to anyone. Poor little guy who’s subjected to her caustic venom on a daily basis, I wonder what will become of him.
These kind of things take some maturity to understand. 30 years ago, I was this young chick, working downtown and then too, living downtown in my first apartment. I used to get my grocery at noon, but lined up in the Express checkout. I rarely had many items or much time. One day a lady behind me started berating me for having 17 items in the 15 item check out. She was very loud and obviously very disturbed. Being naive about mental illness, I felt ‘under attack’ and must have shot the checkout gal a great panicked look. She immediately assured me with a smile and said “you’re fine”. The lady behind me began to yell at her too, all the while I cashed out. Horrified, I practically sprinted out of there. By some twisted fate, the same lady was the LAST person to board my bus on the way home. I’m pretty sure my adrenaline went through the roof. She began a tirade like you’ve never heard with the driver. He stood his ground and invited her to sit or catch the next bus. All the while, I did my best to hide behind my backpack (packed with my 17 grocery items). He must have been familiar with her I’m sure. I was sitting right up front and said to the bus driver, “you aren’t going to believe this, but that same lady ripped a strip off me at noon”. He smirked and said, “lucky us hey?” That was my first negative experience with mental illness and when I saw her on the bus, I immediately knew she suffered from something I didn’t understand, but I felt bad for her too.
Oh this is so long, but that day I learned that negative things others ‘say to us’ usually have little to do ‘with us’ and more to do with themselves. I wonder what a man would say or feel in the same situation?
You have it exactly right Boomdee – the things people choose to say about or to us have very little to do with us and everything to do with them! My take on this little incident now [a year or so on] is that it was more her venom and anger that sliced into my heart and soul – this is what happens to us all when we experience these kind of attacks.
She was somewhere between 30 and 40 – hard to know when the face is so curled in anger – I can still see her in my minds eye 🙂
You were a very wise young woman all those years ago to realise so quickly that it wasn’t about you – it was all about her! It took me way longer to get there – but that’s the story of my life, sigh!! 🙂
I don’t know if I was so wise, maybe not very worldly at all really. But back then, most Canadians were still patient, polite, quiet and courteous. So being so strange and unlike anyone I’d ever come across, I knew there must be a problem. Now, those days are long gone, these days she might not even stand out in a crowd much. When and why did people get so abrupt, impatient and confrontational. I had a honk behind me today while I wait for a pedestrian in a crossing. I guess I should have rushed to turn before they crossed or ran them over because buddy behind me had somewhere’s to be, NOW…..LOL.
Great story, Boomdee! It seems we’ve all been on the receiving end of something like this in our life. I often counsel our boys that the hatred directed at them at school is not about them. They both seem to have a healthy self esteem, but it’s not always easy.
Such a great post, eh?
Really great post. Congratulations on raising your boys with a healthy attitude about their self worth. They’re both great boys to spend time with. We’re really lucky since all the parents we know and socialize with, all seem to have really great kids. Certainly not by luck. Thank you for your message hon xo
That is very nice to hear.You have such a wonderful circle of friends, too. I know they all adore you as much as I do.
I just love the wisdom of your blog, you write so interesting and well. That woman and I, as we are fond of saying in the south, would have come to Jesus right there in the aisle.
Chuckle!! And thank you for your kind words.