I like to think of myself as a cool person: likable, fun, intelligent. But sometimes my behavior just doesn’t reflect that.
One place where I get to feel extra cool is teaching some amazing, fun and open-hearted women at my dance fitness class at the local YMCA. On days when I am feeling blue or cranky, I can count on feeling much better after leading a class.
Even if I have to fake a smile in the warm-up, by the third song I am in a zone– feeling inspired, motivated and just happy to be shaking my thang.
I was transitioning from using a CD to my iPod and forgot to turn the correct knob on the stereo system. The music BLASTED through the gym and I moved quickly to turn it down.
Mind you, I’m constantly adjusting the sound because, while we want the music loud enough to give us that party feel, we also want to be considerate of members who might not appreciate the loud, thumping rhythms of salsa, samba, merengue and reggaeton.
I felt badly about the sound blasting but quickly let it go because it was clearly a mistake and we were moving on…
In walks a woman who works the front desk wagging her finger at me saying, You HAVE to turn that down!
I nodded in compliance. But that quickly changed. My mind started to fire off with emotional reactions…
The Me Who Questions: Wait just a minute, HAVE to? Didn’t I already do that? And could you be more polite?
Angry Me: She can’t just push me around! She can’t just come in here and tell me what to do! She picked the wrong day to f#@^ with me! She’s not going to get away with treating me that way!
Wounded Me: Why would someone be so mean? What did I ever do to her? No one realizes what a hard time I am having. What about me?
Guess what part of me won. I marched out of class to go embarrass myself at the front desk.
I walked up to the woman and told her next time not to walk into my class and tell me what to do. It was rude, disruptive and just wrong.
Guess what happened next. She apologized profusely saying she didn’t mean to come across as curt or unkind. I started to cry telling her I am sorry, that I am having a bad day and that I am happy to turn it down next time.
Just kidding! She instead told me: Oh! You’re being too sensitive! Just go back to your class and teach it. You’ll feel better, honey. I went in there because I couldn’t hear the patron on the phone. Oh please, you don’t know what you’re talking about!
Ok, so now I’m angry and crazy. She, of course, was not going to validate my feelings and I, of course, was going to try to bully her into submission.
When she told me to scat, I said, No! You are rude and nasty and you can’t go around talking to people like that! When I realized the argument was futile, I did finally walk away. And I did end up feeling better after a couple of songs.
So what did I learn from this? I am wounded, defensive and angry. No, not all the time. But this is me too. Ugly Me, Bozo Me, Struggling Me.
It would have been easy to keep the focus on the woman who interrupted my class. Was she rude? Yes. Is she known to be hard to work with? Yes. And, am I responsible for my own actions and reactions? You got it.
It took some reflecting to get connected to the place of my own suffering. It also took some time to hold the other woman with compassion.
I could recognize the anger and aggression in her. Not because I am cooler than her, but because I AM HER.
This situation triggered feelings in me that were already present but that I failed to acknowledge. Though uncomfortable and embarrassing, it was an opportunity to pause and look at the sadness underneath.
Today, three days later, I am mostly grateful. Grateful to the woman for helping me be in touch with my own woundedness and suffering. Grateful that I didn’t make a bigger ass of myself than I did. Grateful that I am getting better at stepping out of the drama of the story to what is really important: greater kindness towards myself and to other people. I won’t be waging a campaign to get her to be nicer. I’m committing to be nicer to me. 8/18/10