September 9, 2019 at 7:23 pm #13541Cystic Fibrosis News ModeratorModerator
Columnist Hannah Buck relates a hospital trip brought on by a CF flare, and an inconsiderate stranger who stage-whispered, “I hope she’s not contagious.” Click here to read more from Hannah.
Such an awkward situation. Have you ever been through something like Hannah experienced? How did you deal with it?
September 11, 2019 at 8:13 am #13553Paul met DebbieParticipant
Mary and The Lady (or are they?)
These situations unfortunately happen, and I am sure all of us, with or without a disease, had to deal with it once or more often in our lives. They are great lessons for us to improve on ourselves, and to check on the progress we have made so far in being true. Trust me, life is not about being healthy or unhealthy. It is about discovering our true being. But an illness could be very helpful in this, because it tends to amplify everything, so it can be seen more clearly (if we want).
I will not defend the ladies reaction because it is very un-loving and discompassionate, but I do want to point out some things and mechanisms that perhaps can help us look at situations like this from a more distant, more clear and true, perspective. The main question being: who is making the rude remark and who is reacting to this? You would probably say: the lady and Hannah, but you would be mostly wrong. Let me explain. But I want this answer not to be about Hannah personally, because firstly it has nothing to do with who Hannah really is, and secondly because her reaction is very common, and all of us could have reacted this way. So I changed her persona into Mary. Let us say it all happened to Mary. Hence, Mary and The Lady.
First of all, what comes to mind regarding the ladies reaction is: “Forgive her, because she does not know what she is doing”. A familiar phrase perhaps, but often forgotten. Obviously, the lady is ignorant and unaware, she is reacting from fear which comes from the ego instead of from love. With ego I mean our conditioned mind that has some illusionary and false image of who we are. Being taking over by her ego, she is to be forgiven, because it is not her own self reacting. You can’t expect anyone to behave more wisely than their own level of awareness allows them. And the general level of awareness and compassion leaves a lot to be wanted. We should not misinterpret her reaction ourselves either, looking at her “smirk” or hearing her “jokingly” tone of voice (if these are true observations to begin with – or are they also colored by Mary’s own ego?). I bet the lady is not amused, she is not trying to be funny, she is only afraid of contracting a disease and she does not know (has not learned) how to manage that. Hence her awkward reaction. That may be an overreaction of fear, but nevertheless we can understand the mechanism better this way and with more compassion. Disqualifying her and saying that she does not belong to the group of “good people” like Mary does, is equally unaware and ignorant. You can’t and should not fight the dark with the dark. Try to shine your light at it. And look at ourselves: I must admit, even more so when I am in a hospital, people in my vicinity coughing and sneezing do not contribute to my feeling of safety, to say the least. Most airway infections are indeed spread by coughs and sneezes, that is a well-known fact, and even a mask will not give 100% protection. So, if you are afraid of contracting a disease this way, a reaction of fear is not totally incomprehensible. That does not excuse the lady from uttering this fear in such a blunt manner of course, but still, there is some validity to her feeling (not to her behavior). And it does not make her “no good”. If she had been more aware of her own reaction, she had recognized it to be a bit over the top and perhaps she could have acted more graciously. If she was totally aware, probably the reaction would not have come up at all. But she was not aware and she can’t help that, our society and upbringing are not interested in awareness in general, they tend to emphasize the contrary mechanisms of ego, individualism and separation. So be it, but we can start to improve on this with ourselves instead of pointing to others. Don’t blame her, you can’t control her reaction, but you can work on your own reaction. So let’s look at Mary’s (excuse me, her ego’s) reaction next.
Secondly, you are never upset because of the reason you think you are. This is not about this ladies remark, it is about Mary’s own (perception of) misery. If she had been in the power of her own self, the ladies remark could not have hurt her at all. But instead, she was lost in the story of her mind (ego) herself, like most of us are most of the time. She tells it beautifully and lively, all the circumstances leading up to the moment of her disgust. We can really get into it. Being left alone by her boyfriend at the admissions desk, having muscle aches, feeling weak, having to move her wheelchair with her hands by the filthy wheels, feeling misjudged by the nurse (at first, after that it changed in a feeling of pride – both feelings being not to the point and ego-produced), feeling sorry for herself having a dramatic (in her description) coughing fit, her sickness, the shortness of breath. These circumstances (and probably a life full of them before these, so much that she was even used to it) in her mind all led up to The Moment, and her ego had a ball with it. The moment of the lady. Entering Mary’s field of view (accompanied by her husband, to add insult to injury …). Now Mary’s ego used all this fuel to ignite it at once when the lady made her rude remark. And it made her cry. And she felt attacked personally. That is, her own ego felt that way. How dare she!, says Mary. Joking (was she, really?) at my genetic disease (really? She couldn’t be, because she does know Mary has cf) that is going to kill me (how does Mary know how and why her bodily life will end? She might be ran over by a bus or die from another disease altogether and besides, how is this important regarding the ladies remark?). Mary goes on: How dare she fake a fear for her own life (how does Mary know it was fake? – and is Mary the only one who gets to be fearful of dying because she has this disease? Fear of death is really common, you know). Now Mary’s ego really was on a roll, making up a story that the lady did this despite of her being ill for a week, being only 22, coughing up blood in a certain amount etc. etc. (no, the lady does not know about this, so her remark could not be despite of it all – it was just a rude remark because she did nòt know anything of this). So Mary’s ego is (un)happily phantasizing along, making up a great story to make this insignificant circumstance into the ultimate drama it wants it to be. Ego’s do that, it makes them feel alive. Something really happened today, to me! And then Mary’s mind and body identify with it, believes the story of the ego and Mary believes it is about her and decides: I will tell you about it. That will make mè feel alive. The reality is: you suffer from it, but the ego doesn`t care about you. It feeds on you believing it.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not criticizing Mary, only describing her ego, the reaction of her mind (that has a totally wrong idea of the loving and gracious being she really is underneath). There is nothing wrong with Mary, but she is as much a victim of identification with the story of her mind, the conditioning, the twisted perspectives, the untrue-ness as, the lady is. This is not an encounter of rudeness vs vulnerability, of Mary and the lady, of her and the nurse being “good people” and the lady being “no good”; no, this is a clash of two misdirected and uncontrolled ego’s that make the moment and the simple situation into a miserable hell of misunderstanding. So these are two untrue stories being told. The story about the lady who is unforgivably rude and not a good person, intentionally trying to hurt Mary and her illness, and the story of good innocent Mary reacting to this, turning her into a poor victim that we all should feel very sorry for. We should not believe either of these stories.
Neither of these reactions are going to help, or make anyone happy. It is our own task in life to discover this mechanism of our ego working, to overcome it, learn to ignore it, try to really get into our selves deep enough to find another way of living and reacting, which is mostly non-reacting, coming from love and being at peace with ourselves and seeing the circumstances for what they are, not being disturbed by them. We will be so much happier for it if we do. Wars will end, the little ones and the big ones. We will even forget our own bodily diseases and feel healthy and happy, which is our true nature after all.
Forgive him/her/me, because I /he/she do(es) not know what I /he/she am (is) doing. Now try to work on this, try to be the being that does know what he/she is doing. The world will be a so much better place for it. Our own little worlds and the big world they compose. Never mind the circumstances, the behavior of others: you are the only one that counts in this world. If you are at peace with yourself, nothing can hurt you or provoke an unaware reaction. Or to quote John Butler: To Make whole, Be whole.
May grace be with you and with your next reaction – and if it turns out to be personal: learn from it. Life will give you a second chance.
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