She was simply having a bad day. It had nothing to do with me. Sometimes, it’s simply our moods or another circumstance that causes us to act out of character.
Each week, I write a column in Ami Magazine’s Whisk called “Hello Cooks.” I don’t typically share my messages anywhere else, although this week I was asked to bring back this edition that appeared in my column during the Nine Days, a time when we work on rectifying sinas chinam. Now that it’s right before Yom Kippur, having tools for forgiveness are just as apropos. -Victoria
She was normally so sweet, but today she was so cranky. When I smiled at her, there was a blank glare in return. And what was with the attitude and snide comments? This nurse had been working in this doctor’s office for as long as I could remember, and today she was so out of character.
“It must be she’s going through something,” I thought.
After the appointment, when I walked to the parking lot, she was outside, crying loudly on her cell phone.
“Papa, papa…” was the only part I could understand as she screamed in another language. I hurried to get to my car so she wouldn’t feel embarrassed that someone other than the grass, trees, and traffic was witness to her vulnerability. But this experience made it so clear:
Often, a personal situation can cause a domino effect, putting us in a mood, causing us to act differently than we normally would to people completely unrelated to the situation.
One year, I was outdoors decorating the sukkah. I don’t remember what was going on, but I was stressed that morning. One of my cookbooks had recently gone to print. Then the publisher called. There was a little tidbit that they wanted to take out of the book. I remember being so upset. We were done! It was erev Yom Tov and I really couldn’t think about the book anymore. Why did we need more changes? Later I realized I was really not upset about the tidbit. It was unimportant and it didn’t matter if it was in or out of the book. It was not my style to mind. My reaction was simply affected by whatever else was going on at the time.
When I write an article, I try my best to give the people whom I’ve interviewed enough time to review. Sometimes it works out where I can give them ample time, and sometimes it takes me longer to write, or I have a shorter deadline, and I need comments/changes back very quickly.
Hashem is good to me and most everyone I’ve ever worked with on an article has been wonderfully accommodating.
One time a while back, though, I was contacted on print day with a change that needed to go into an article. Of course that’s no problem, even if the article had already been reviewed for more than a week’s time with numerous rounds of changes. So why was this woman screaming at me over the phone about a tinsy mistake that wasn’t even in the edited draft? And even if it was, why act so angry? It’s easy to fix if necessary. What had I done wrong? It affected how I felt all day.
In the situation with the nurse, there was really no reason for me to take any of her comments personally. But more often, the comments come from someone closer to us, and it does affect us. There’s a melancholy feeling that drapes over those days.
We’re always told to separate the comment from the person when we have those encounters…that we’re being sent a message and they’re just a messenger. But what if we’re not holding by doing a cheshbon hanefesh each time someone is rude?
Perhaps this is a lower level of dealing with things, but if you feel hurt and you can’t separate “comment from person,” it’s easier to simply acknowledge that there’s something else behind the comments.
It’s like that cranky child that’s simply tired or hungry. It’s really not because you wouldn’t give them red ices instead of blue. They’re acting that way because of another circumstance. Yes, the adult could simply be tired, hot, or hungry like a toddler. But if we can’t hear the message Hashem is sending to us personally, at least it’s easier to have empathy for the person who’s acting difficult and understand that there must be something affecting how they’re relating to you today.
Do you remember how you’ve felt on days you’ve been dragged down from your interactions? We wouldn’t want to cause that feeling to anyone else, even if we’re having a difficult day. May we all have the ability and opportunities to uplift each person we meet. Gmar Chatimah Tovah.