I see a lot of people at my job. There are people from all walks of life who come in every day. In general I enjoy interacting with people who are so different and interesting. The people I see are old, young, poor, eccentric. They are pleasant, creepy, and wonderful. But every now and then I have a really bad reaction to certain people and I’ve worked on what my problem is. I like one of the “Rules for being human” that states that every person is mirror of you – whatever you love or hate in someone else is whatever you love or hate in yourself. So I’ve been thinking about that.
I’ve noticed that I have a terrible reaction to those who reek of cigarettes and those who are morbidly obese, as well as people who are alcoholics. I’ve wondered why I seem to have a visceral reaction to them. I get angry when I see them. I’ve prayed about this. I’ve journaled about this. I’ve finally followed my spiritual director’s advice and asked Jesus into this feeling to help me understand it.
I certainly noticed those who smell of alcohol and get only movies. It has become a cliché. They drink so much and so often that even if they aren’t currently drunk they still smell of alcohol. It is escaping from their pores in the way that any poison does.
With all these situations, I have seen a connection. With the people who smoke, who overeat, who are alcoholics, each is a person who has no self control.
Part of my reaction is that I’ve been there. I used to be obese. I used to smoke clove cigarettes. I used to smoke pot. I know what it is like to be an addict. I know what it is like to feel trapped in my own body. I remember deciding I didn’t want to smoke pot every day so I wrapped my stash in several plastic bags and put rubber bands around it. I then put it up on a high shelf. It was going to take a lot of effort to get to it.
And then I’d find myself standing on that chair. I’d find myself unwinding the rubber bands. I’d pull out my bong and my supply of buds and I’d smoke. It is as if I was possessed. It was like I saw myself doing these things. I was a puppet, a slave. I didn’t want to smoke pot, and there I was doing it again. It was a terrible feeling. I felt helpless.
At first I thought to celebrate these instances, of every time I’d see something that angered me. I’d see someone who was obese or smell the smoke or alcohol on someone and it would remind me to pray. So that was good. I was praying more often. I would pray for the person and pray for my bad reaction. I hated the feeling I had, but at least it caused me to seek God. This worked for a little while.
Then Grace happened.
I came to understand this was grief.
My Mom died from smoking cigarettes. My Dad died from smoking and from not exercising. He was obese. I was angry at these people who shared their bad habits because I’m still angry at my parents for dying so young. For abandoning me. For leaving me alone to fend against my predatory brother.
There is a lady who comes every day who is retired. She sits and plays games on Facebook for hours. She is so large that she has a hard time walking.
I’m jealous of the time that she has. I’m angry that my Mom died, and doesn’t have any time left at all. I’m angry that this woman is throwing away her time. It is personal. Not only do I want her to use her time better, I want her to understand that there are people who would love to have that much free time. Why does she get to live and my Mom didn’t? Why do I have to shoehorn in my creative activity and she has all this time and blows it?
It is grief. I’m angry at them because I’m sad for myself. I’m angry at my parents for not having any self control, and then dying young. I’m angry at myself when I waste time and I don’t exercise like I should or eat what I know is good for me. My gut reaction lead me to prayer which lead me to understanding the source of my pain.
Pain became a blessing, because from it, I’m beginning to heal.
I offer you these words to tell you that you can do this too. I offer you these words as a voice in the wilderness, calling out, telling you to walk through the thicket, the stickerbushes, the marsh. Walk on. There is hope if you continue to mindfully walk this path. Don’t sit down, keep walking, keep working. There is healing here, in this work.