The Penny Drops

I’m like a bazillion years old, and I always thought I was pretty good about reading people, which most of the time I am.  But I have never been able to figure out why I still manage to find myself stabbed in the heart occasionally by someone, or multiple someones, I thought I knew pretty well.  And suddenly today, as I’m surveying the good souls in our dining room, I figured it out.

Or, at least, I’m starting to figure out; there are still some nuances to be smoothed out.

Here’s the thing:  I pretty much take people as they come to me.  I rarely let their personal habits or behaviours, their idiosyncracies if you will, affect my ability to work with them, or take care of them, or even befriend them.  I sometimes really do not like people – isn’t that true of all of us, one time or another? – but I can almost always find something redemptive in people and find a way to get along with them.  But I think this behaviour is a bit of an anomaly.

When I started this job, I would look at these people, these aged and aging, these 85- and 90- year old souls who once were 20- and 25-years old, and I would try to see them without the wrinkles and walkers, without the aches and incontinence, with better hearing and vision and teeth and find the person they once were.  But that person they once were is still there!  Just because there’s white hair and wrinkles doesn’t mean that the essential “me” has gone missing – it’s still there!

So that woman who wants raisin toast and exactly one half pot of tea every morning was probably just that fussy 60 years ago – although I will concede she may have had more than a half pot of tea.  And that man who flirts with everything that wears -or could wear- a skirt was undoubtedly a flirt 50 years ago, if maybe a little luckier at the end goal back then!  Short temperedness is not a sign of old age – it’s how you are.  Precision and care taking don’t happen just because you’re 83 – that’s what you’ve been like since a toddler.

And I’m fine with that.  I accept you for who you are.  There’s a cleverness and kindness and intelligence in there somewhere, I’m quite sure, and I’m willing to hang in there until we find it (again) together.  And because I make these acceptances, I believe others will make them of me.

I’m surprised I still have any teeth left, this belief has kicked me in them so often.

I am who I am.  I am opinionated and smart, so I say what’s important to me but also let others tell me what they think; when I’m leading a group or business, I let people do their jobs, and expect to be allowed to do mine; I talk too loudly on the phone, I offer hugs at the drop of a hat, and I always the first one to play Devil’s Advocate.  Is my behaviour out of line with the norm, or is it that of those who have surprised/hurt me?  Or is it something in between?  It’s not like I’m going to change the way I behave, the way I think about people and accept them, so I know I shouldn’t expect others to change their M.O. either.  Still, I wish they would.  At least to the extent that fewer of us are hurt, devastated by non-acceptance.

I was a geeky kid.  I was smarter than most of my classmates, and I was smaller (hard to believe now, eh?), and I was younger so I was always trying to keep up with my classmates on a social level.  Rarely succeeded, I have to say, but still, I was always trying.   Maybe that’s where I learned to accept people as they came.  I didn’t care about people’s “deficiencies” if they wanted to be my friend – let’s just be friends!  Those people, the ones on the fringe with the weird clothes and awkward family ties, they were my friends, and we accepted each other.  Oh, for all  you “most popular” winners out there – I was also making friends with you, and I accepted you for who and what you were, too.

Now, when I’m dealing with a resident who is a little ornery, when we’ve got student servers who are pushing the boundaries a little, when the bosses up the line are behaving like their necks are on the block and someone I have to pay for that, I remember that acceptance is a good thing.  And when it’s not offered – or worse, when it’s snatched back – it hurts like hell.

I know this theory isn’t the perfect answer to why, why, why are there so many stab wounds in my heart.  But I feel like it’s a giant step forward for me in understanding myself, and those who have disappointed me.  There aren’t many of them, for which I am grateful, because along with the disappointments came great loss and pain, but even so, I want to understand and thus move on.

And I hope that this idea also helps me in my work here – helps me know that there is someone under the white hair, behind the wrinkles, wearing sheer stockings and 2-inch heels (not support hose and sturdy flats), who used to get a little crazy with her boyfriends at the Legion.  ‘Cause as much as she’s making me crazy with her constant demands to check the door lock, there’s still a kindred soul in there who can be my friend.




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