"It must be nice to have someone to take care of you," she said as she passed the table. She works in the restaurant attached to the hotel we've been staying at for the last few days. It has a breakfast buffet and every morning I pull into the huge industrial toaster and make toast, Joe hunts and gathers the eggs, potatoes, knives and forks. I had just returned to the table and begun the process of buttering the toast. Then she glides by and drops the "it must be nice ..." line into my morning routine. I answer swifty, but nicely, "Hey, I make the toast!"
Several feelings ran through me at the time, all competing for attention, all yelling, "pick me, pick me" in their quest for domination of how I would feel for the day ...
The first feeling of the block was Anger, Anger is perhaps the fittest of all my feelings. He is always ready to run, perpetually hopping up and down keeping his musclues loose, he can take off like a shot. I have a pretty huge track that he can exercise on ... and the trigger on the starter pistol is well oiled and often used.
"I can take care of myself!!" Anger shreiked as he took off. He went on and on about assumptions about people with disabilities. Let's be clear here, Anger isn't a disability activist, he's simply clever at using whatever language he needs to in order to get my attention. "People who make assumptions about my dependency are just bigots ..." see, Anger is good. What it will take me a day or two to realize is that I have never been ok at taking care of myself, even when walking, even when bending was an option, I needed others but Anger doesn't care for facts.
The second feeling of the starting block was Fear. Fear is nearly as quick as anger, fear likes to appear weak but is incredibly strong, fear likes to speak in trembling timber with a force the belies his presentation. Fear is better at anger at capturing my attention, fear has tools other than speed and wit. He has his little brother 'insecurity' and his wife 'anxiety' who can tag team. Long after anger has run out of steam, Fear can keep the momentum up.
"Everybody thinks that I an a pathetic crippled fat guy, everybody thinks they can walk all over me, everybody thinks that I'm as competent as a child and as weak as a baby, I've got to assert myself all over their ass to let them know that I've got power and control and they better not mess with me ..." Fear wants me to do the same thing than anger does, but fear wants me to do it for a different reason. Fear likes me in the role of victim, it's the perfect starting point for him to control the minutes, hours and days of my life. He likes to point out how everyone else is a horrible mean person who hurts me simply because they can. How dare that waitress see me as less than as able? Fear tags off to insecurity ...'You've always been a nothing' ... than to anxiety ... 'Does everyone see me as helpless?'
Then as I'm buttering the third slice of toast, Graciousness entered into the fray. Graciousness takes time to dress, to shave, to pick the right shoes. He's a bit fussy and a bit prissy, if he could, he'd put his hair up into a bun and use a ruler to tap the edge of the desk to get attention. "How nice it is that she sees that I have someone who cares for me, how nice it is that she feels that she can comment on our relationship, and ironically how nice it is that I have someone to take care of me." Graciousness often has to bitch-slap Anger and get Fear in a headlock. Graciousness fights the hardest fight because while Anger and Fear can form a tag team, Graciousness has to go it alone.
So, as these three took hold of the battle field, the one between heart and breath and mind, I sat looking the picture of calm buttering the toast for the two of us. Joe was busily plopping down plates of eggs, knives and forks and little packets of peanut butter. Unaware that a battle royal was going on within me, a battle that would have ramifications on his day. Anger and Fear have no difficulty in turning Joe's day into a living hell. Graciousness kind of likes Joe and often includes him as proof that the world is a good place.
Smiling at me Joe said, "So what did the waitress say to you?" I paused, inside me Anger drew up short, Fear stood still, Graciousness brushed his hair back and they all waited, waited like Movie Stars at the Academy Awards, I said, "What a nice woman, she said ..." Graciousness lept up to take the envelope ... and I had entered into my day.
A couple of times during the day Anger fought back, trying to recapture the moment. Fear also tried to get insecurity to creep into my heart. But the day went to the Victor who was wisely getting ready for the next battle.