This is the finale of the story I began in the previous post about trying not to morf into a toad in response to an encounter with a particularly ungracious toady person. Got one (or more) of those toad-people in your life? I’d love to hear how you handle them.
In the meantime, please scroll back to Part 1 to refresh your memory before you continue reading.
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Mrs. Persimmon’s tirade about the equipment I’d inadvertently broken droned on. I couldn’t have felt worse about it but no matter how apologetic I was, she couldn’t get past it.
Then suddenly, like a heavy brocade curtain dropping, she stopped in mid-rant, turned to the class and said, “Today is the Great American Teach-in. This lady is here to talk to you about whatever it is she does.” She then returned to her desk. We all stared at the back of her crimson neck as she turned her back to us and began pounding an agitated rhythm on her computer keys.
So the ball was in my court. I felt about two inches tall. I was a bad girl. Bad, bad girl. And everyone present knew it.
My first impulse was to pack up my things, take my toys and go home. But 30 pairs of adolescent eyes were looking expectantly at me. I couldn’t tell if they were waiting to see me burst into tears (which is what I feared might happen at any moment), or if they truly wanted to see how a grown-up person should handle an embarrassing situation.
When did I become so grown-up anyway? I may be fifty-something on the outside, but on the inside I’m often still a kid. This, however, was a time I knew I had to fake it and act mature.
So with face blazing, I fumbled forward. It was the most flustered, disjointed presentation I’ve ever given, but at least I made it through to the end. And oddly enough, the kids loved it.
Mrs. Persimmon, who had kept typing non-stop during my program, remained frosty when the bell rang and the first set of students was exchanged for another. She basically ignored me.
“Get out your books and read,” the new class was instructed as I stood at the front waiting to be introduced and begin my next presentation. After five minutes, I finally sat down and looked to Mrs. Persimmon for some sort of explanation or instruction. None was forthcoming. She continued to peck at her keyboard.
Am I being punished? I wondered. Or has she forgotten I’m here?
When ten minutes of my 50-minute allotted time had ticked away (she was well aware that my PowerPoint took every bit of 50 minutes), I approached her desk and asked how much longer it would be until I could begin.
Sheepishly, she answered, “A few more minutes. I guess I should have told you that this group always reads during the first portion of class.”
“That would have been good to know, yes,” I replied.
Looking directly into my eyes for the first time since our initial explosive encounter, she added in an almost-pleasant tone, “By the way, the media specialist just e-mailed that the broken equipment can be replaced immediately, so everything will turn out fine.”
“Well, I’m very glad to hear it,” I said, resisting the temptation to say, “Fine? You call the humiliation you’ve caused me fine?” Try as I might, I was having a terrible time not biting back with the same hostile tone with which she’d earlier lambasted me. I wanted so badly to tell her just how rude she’d been and that I would never, ever, EVER do another classroom presentation because of her.
But in a flash of insight, I realized that if I did, I’d actually become the 12-year-old I felt like at that moment. I had to let this anger go. I needed to BARF.
BARF is the anger-management tool I talk about in my book, More Beauty, Less Beast, and the upcoming Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate. It’s an acronym that stands for:
B: Back Off
So I BARFed. I excused myself to the restroom (backed off; put physical distance between my offender and myself) and admitted to a roll of toilet paper that I felt so disrespected and belittled that I wanted to stuff it’s very self where the sun don’t shine on Persimmons.
I had to wait on the last two steps for awhile, but it turned out to be easy to redirect my intense feelings when I went to pack up my equipment and found that my projector case had been stolen and Mrs. Persimmon sympathetically promised to try to track it down (it was found the next morning thrown into the bushes behind one of the buildings).
So did BARFing make my bad experience turn into a good one?
Did it change anything that had happened or alter my offender’s actions in any way?
Did it drain away my seething resentment toward Mrs. Persimmon and pour a little much-needed graciousness into my spirit?
Yep. It absolutely did. And graciousness is the hardest thing in the world to come by in responding to ungraciousness, isn’t it?
Our commonly perceived definition of “gracious” is “marked by kindness and courtesy.” But Webster adds, “godly” and “compassionate” and “generosity of spirit” to the portrait of graciousness. As my friend Marian reminds me, even the bad stuff – maybe especially the bad stuff – serves to make Papa God increase within us as the “I” decreases.
Gracious is what I want to be, what I aspire to be. But it’s very tough to be gracious when the Persimmons of this world bring out the 12-year-old in me. Handling a toad often makes me turn into one too. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With a little more BARFing, I hope that one day my insides will grow up to match my outsides.