I was in a pretty good mood earlier. We had a nice dinner and I had to go to get some items from “The store that starts with a ‘T’” as Thing 1 used to call it when he was wee.
I believe in the power of St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer: “May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”
Pretty awesome, right?
Believing in this prayer has given me capacity to sit as still as I can; to be poised; to count to 10; to not react; to do what I can do to maintain composure; to remember to breathe during challenging moments that basically suck. I have realized it’s easier for a Saint. That it’s much easier to hope for such composure than it is to actually manifest it. The prayer often occurs to me when I’m in traffic and what I do is placate myself about my being late in traffic by suggesting that it’s saving my life from being in an awful six-car accident somewhere. Or for instance, when the kids are insane, I sit back, breathe and wait until I feel that my interfering with them would be more beneficial than wasteful; the prayer doesn’t somehow make their screeching easier on the ears, nor does it diminish their heat or its intensity. It’s just a nice distraction, like whistling when you’re terrified. It’s a nice interlude that actually works for me.
I said the prayer occurs to me… not that I actually succeed.
Usually, I’m not that together – I react. I heave and sigh. I pretty much go right to the good ole id to do what I can to either beat out the circumstance’s suckiness by creating my own suckiness or escape the suckiness altogether. But eventually, when I figure it out that I must submit to the suckiness in order for it to diminish, it sort of neutralizes. St. Teresa: 1, suckiness: 0.
Not so much tonight at the store that starts with a T. When I look back on tonight’s experience, which I will inevitably do because I’m Irish and we like to brood and foment, I’m not going to doubt myself for why I took so long in the hair repair (I need a deep conditioner) aisle or question if I really needed to be pleasant to the guys in electronics when I was buying the extra memory for my phone. I’m going to do what I can to apply the prayer.
I did what I went to do. I selected my mass-produced stuff, put it in my gigantic red shopping cart (which reminds me of my h.s. friend’s art: Google “Michelle Muldrow – Cathedrals of Desire” (http://www.jenbekman.com/shows/cathedrals-desire) and you’ll see what I mean) and ambled up to the checkout. My hair in a clip and looking like a mom on a Friday night in suburbia.
The gentleman before me was elderly. He bought mostly inexpensive high-carb starchy foods, I guessed he was on a limited income. He looked tired; he needed a shave; he was having trouble reading the electronic debit card machine. He didn’t know where to sign. He was confused by the multiple, neurotic “ARE YOU SURE??” questions about whether to ask for cash back and the numerous denominations in which to acquire the cash that wanted to be needed from the neurotic machine. (Can you imagine the learning curve required by some of our country’s elderly population to deal with all the technology they MUST face daily?!)
Back to me.
I didn’t mind. I had nowhere to go. I was patiently patient. Wrongly suspecting that I was like 95% of Fairfax County shoppers by thinking I thought I was more important than the elderly man before me, the cashier evinced patient frustration with the man by apologetically looking at me and rolling her eyes as she flared her lower lip to blow her bangs from her 3” lashes.
She, by virtue of being the cashier, had even less nowhere to go… it’s cool. We’re all part of the chain, baby.
The people behind me were the other 95%. They had better things to do and better places to be with better people who weren’t “Ol’ fools who shoodn be owt heah tryin’a woik da fool machine. Daaaayaaam…”
Audibly disturbed by the elderly man’s God-given right to take his God-given time, the masculine member of the upwardly mobile couple decided to take out a smartphone loaded with his anathema anthems for all shoppers in the entire store to hear. One hate song about Popping F——Caps in The F——- Man and Stupid F—— Biotches wasn’t quite offensive enough so the loutish player of venom tunes switched to more lyrically offensive noise to demonstrate his massive ego and what I can only surmise was (is) his tiny manhood.
Talk about ids.
While the little old man in front of me was trying to get his card back in his wallet and sign the machine’s glowing electronic screen with the wand-like pen that has no ink, I turned to the gratis mobile DJ behind me and asked him, “Do you mind turning that down a bit? Please?”
And he said, “Yeah. I do.”
“WHAT?” My inner a-hole said. “Shhh… count to 10. Count to 10,” said St. Teresa. My eyes narrowed. I tsked. The angry little man behind me was my height. He was about 40# heavier than I am. I just shook my head. It was one of those moments when I wished I was two people: my older triathlete brother who’s 6’5”, built like a fortress and has a tongue like a viper from heredity and honed from his years working in NYC high finance … or my artistic younger brother who’s 5’10” and has the patience of a saint because he’s an ordained minister and the father of a toddler. My older bro would likely intimidate and eviscerate the music man in 20 loud syllables or less whereas my younger bro would wear him down with his low-talking, impressive endurance and vast catalog of Scripturally appropriate responses. Either of them would inspire humility in the little man.
Not me. I’m the middle child. I stooped to his level.
“Well, it’s loud and it’s pretty offensive.” I said, summoning my best St. Teresa. “May there be peace within… may… there be PEACE withIN…..
“You’re offensive,” the maestro said.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who needed a deep conditioner tonight.
I said (here we go…) “I’m offensive? That’s the best you can do?”
“Yeah.” Was his witty retort.
And then I just let it go. May there be peace without. Not really.
But I didn’t bother with him and his escort who decided to make “Mmmmhmmmm, dat’s right… you’re offensive… heee heeehehe…mmmmhmm…” noises from her oral cavity.
I suddenly realized I did have somewhere better to be: home with my tribe.
So as I was getting my things, the cashier looked at me with a knowing, woeful expression that made me feel like she was probably familiar with a-holes like this from her childhood or marriage and said to me quietly (more so with her eyes) “Thank you.” I looked over my shoulder, grinned, turned back to her and said, “You’re welcome and good luck.”
I took possession of my cart, walked away with poise and confidence after the experience but was definitely angry.
“What do you do with that?” “What’s the point?” “Why does someone get to abuse another person’s air space?” “Where are my rights?”
And all I could think about was how pissed I was that I wasn’t taller, smarter, meaner, stronger, a man, a woman who could crush someone in a blink, or a lesser person – for JUST for that instant…
. . .oh! to have been a lesser person…
When I got home to my team, I was visibly disturbed from the exchange. I wasn’t crying or shaking; I just wasn’t myself. I told them the story and Thing 2 said, “Momma, if I were with you I would have punched him.”
Not the kind of lesser person I meant, I reasoned, looking into his sparkly eyes.
So I resigned. I went to bed at 8:45 and have been here since. I festered. And then thought of St. Teresa’s prayer. And tried to come up with the Grace from the experience. Nope. It doesn’t come when you look for it. So I gave up on that. So then I thought I’d write about it because I hadn’t been writing in a couple weeks (for no good reason but a ton of stuff has been going on) and then came the Grace: I was put there, I took the time I did in the conditioner aisle, and I was nice to the electronics guys to be a buffer between the little old man at the cashier and the big a-hole behind me who had no brain.
Then it made me think of my own dad and how he’s not much different from the little old man in front of me at the cashier. And that if he were at the store tonight that maybe if someone like me were between him and the musical conductor and his sidekick I endured, then so much the better.
Suddenly, within an hour, I was thankful for the experience. I was thankful because I perhaps provided a service to someone who needed it from that small man and his nasty energy. I was thankful because writing about him got me out of a rut.
Teresa was right… “May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.”
The prayer from the saint that starts with a T.