Ever wonder what's up with that crazy woman in the grocery store check-out line having a baby cow over the clerk rejecting her coupon? Or with that guy driving like a maniac on your way home yesterday, the one yelling and gesturing emphatically while honking madly at the other drivers? What is wrong with these people?
I can tell you because, today, I was one of them.
Though I am generally regarded as friendly and outgoing with other people, today I practically had a baby calf myself while at the hospital lab when the doctor's order for my routine blood test wasn't there. Why? I asked myself that very question when I got back to my car.
Perhaps it is because I am living with ovarian cancer and am constantly bracing myself for the next battle in the war. Each trip to the hospital means a blood test that will determine whether and when I must begin another round of toxic chemotherapy, or a clinical trial of a new-yet-unapproved drug, or some other attempt to save my own life. Combine that with my unfortunate needle phobia, and it's a recipe for ugly. It takes awhile to get up my courage just to go to the lab in the first place, arms slathered with Lidocaine numbing cream all the while trying to arrive when the cream is at its peak effectiveness and before my favorite phlebotomist has gone to lunch or on a break. Today was the same, plus an additional time-sucking half hour search for a parking space. So, when I learned with only fifteen minutes left in the "perfect window" that the order was missing, I got a bit testy. I didn't want to leave and go home, just to return tomorrow or the next day, or whenever I got up the nerve to go again. I wanted - I needed - to have the test done today and then get the hell out of there.
Reflecting on today's events reminds me that sometimes our own internal anxiety gets the best of us, which inevitably features the worst in us. Missing lab orders are not the end of the world, that's for sure, but when there is a hiccup in my personal march to stay alive it can supersede my otherwise rationale mind. Same is true for the crazy guy in the car; there's no telling what problems, concerns, or other of life's travails he may be suffering. Mild annoyances can be a conduit to the unflattering side of what anxiety does to people.
There is so much we don't know about others. Someone's abruptness or less-than-polite approach may simply reflect other things going on in their lives. Are they ill? Can they not pay their bills because of a missed child support payment? Have they lost someone dear? The next time I encounter a person with that wild-eyed look I hope I remember to cut him or her some slack. I've been there, too. Their overreaction is more likely spawned by some hidden burden rather than having anything to do with me. So instead of taking it as a personal affront, I hope I use that opportunity to practice kindness and pay forward the patience and understanding the hospital and lab personnel showed to me today.
Kindness. It's contagious.